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Never Fear, Corzine's Here

• Is New Jersey governor Jon Corzine a superhero? He's back to work today, just a few weeks after breaking a leg, eleven ribs, his collarbone, his sternum, and more in a horrific SUV crash. Three-time acting governor Richard Codey again politely recedes into the background. [WNBC] • Kirsys Rodriguez, a 12-year-old Bronx girl, is in critical condition after catching a bullet in a post-party "dispute": She was trying to flee the gunfire that erupted over somebody's Sidekick. [NYT] • Roger Clemens is back with the Yankees for the rest of 2007, for the discussion-ending $28 million (the Red Sox put up a paltry $18 million). Since the Yanks' starting pitchers have been dropping like flies, he'll start within days. [amNY] • Joseph Oddo, a Virginia-based writer whose pet cause is to draft independent candidates to run for president, ha set his sights on Bloomberg. The Website, DraftMichael.com, handily serves to raise public awareness of, well, Joseph Oddo. [NYS] • And it's not exactly local news, but since Spider-Man has been bugging this city for the last several weeks, the least we can do is report his box office: $148 million for the weekend (a record), $59 million on Friday alone (a record), and $375 million worldwide (a record). Can he go away now? [NYDN]

Chris Smith on the Debate: Rudy Giuliani, Positively Mayoral

Rudy Giuliani
One of the sillier conventions of post-debate analysis — the Republican presidential candidates met last night at the Reagan President Library in California — is the discussion of whether a candidate "looked presidential." The intent is to determine which politician appeared to have the gravity and intelligence to occupy the Oval Office — and it's a futile exercise, as standing up to Chris Matthews is hardly an indicator of the ability to handle, say, a nuclear standoff. That said, in the first debate among the GOP contenders, Rudy Giuliani came off looking distinctly mayoral.

We Do Not Understand What the Hell Mike Gravel Is Talking About

The star of last week's Democratic presidential debate was a fringe contender Mike Gravel, 77, a former Alaska senator, who became a blogosphere sensation for saying that it should be a felony for Dubya & Co. to stay in Iraq. (He also drew laughs when he said the leading candidates scare him because they won't rule out bombing Iran. "Who are we planning to nuke?" he asked Barack Obama. "I'm not planning to nuke anybody right now, Mike," responded the Illinois senator.) Gravel — it's pronounced gra-VELL — is a Columbia alum who drove a New York City cab while a student, and he's back in town for appearances on The Colbert Report tonight and the Today show tomorrow morning. We spoke to him before he left his Virginia apartment, which doubles as his campaign headquarters — and we hope Colbert's interview goes better than ours did.

Obama Set to Score First New York Endorsement

New York is Hillary Clinton's home turf, but tomorrow Barack Obama will receive his first formal endorsement from a New York elected official, State Senator Bill Perkins, according to a knowledgeable source. Obama has been able to poach several big-money backers from his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination — he's got several more fund-raisers scheduled in the city this weekend — but Perkins, a longtime Harlem politician, will be the first elected to formally support the Illinois senator. The endorsement is likely to ruffle the feathers of Harlem boss Charlie Rangel, a Hillary supporter, who recently declared, "I don't know Obama supporters in New York." It's not the first time Perkins has gone against the Harlem establishment: He supported Howard Dean in the 2004 primary, when Rangel was supporting General Wesley Clark. "It's all posturing, all game playing," said one Harlem political strategist. "He's trying to make the eye in the sky look at him." Perkins hasn't returned a call for comment. —Geoffrey Gray

Chris Smith on the Debate: A Win for Hillary

The crowded stage at the first Democratic presidential debate, held last night in South Carolina, made for an unwieldy and largely uninformative discussion. But the big field was a good thing for Hillary Clinton. One of the major hurdles for Hillary in this race, an element that's at the core of her stubbornly high negative ratings in polls, is that many voters believe her to be remote and overly ambitious, a policy scold lacking in empathy. Clinton looked endearingly human last night simply by standing amid the seven men in dark suits; even with the diminutive Dennis Kucinich (literally and figuratively) to her left, the tableau emphasized how small Clinton is, physically, which helps shrink her larger-than-life political image. And being the only gal in a gang of middle-aged guys plays straight to a constituency Clinton needs to support her in big numbers: women.

Rosie Offends Women

Rosie O'Donnell emceed a luncheon for Women in Communications, and she offended audience members with off-color jokes. Cindy Adams liked her act, though. Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Norman Mailer, and Anna Wintour all showed up for the memorial service for JFK aide Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Rudy Giuliani's success in presidential polls is making Mike Bloomberg want to run for president. Martha Stewart's billionaire boyfriend, Charles Simonyi, returned from a visit to the International Space Station. An Icelandic billionaire bought an Ian Schrager penthouse in Gramercy Park for $10 million. Hotelier Jason Pomeranc celebrated his birthday with Kate Hudson. Sheryl Crow may be an environmental activist, but a performance rider shows she demands three tractor trailers, four buses, and six cars for a gig. Speaking of Crow, she may have had a falling out with fellow activist Laurie David during their anti-global-warming cross-country tour.

Hillary and Obama Fight for New York's Rich Kids

The next behind-the-scenes battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is shaping up between their young and potentially rich campaign pawns: The HillBlazers vs. Generation O. Gen-O is a different kind of concept to match a different kind of politics, the Obama camp says, more about "friendraising" than the charmless money grabs that usually come with cutthroat, celebrity politics. But the Hillary camp insists the Obama kids are just HillBlazers with a different kind of branding.

RIP Rudy's Gun-Control Plan, 1980–2006

One of the unpleasant side effects of the Virginia Tech tragedy is that every presidential candidate is scrambling to reiterate his stance on gun control. In Rudy Giuliani's eyes, per the ex-mayor's campaign statement, the massacre "does not alter the Second Amendment." Funny thing, though: As the Politico's Jonathan Martin notes today, with a YouTube clip to back him up, Old Rudy used to argue for federal firearm regulation. Giuliani's big idea — one he's been pushing, in his own words, "since at least 1980" — is to treat gun licenses like driver's licenses: to institute a written test and a physical test (for marksmanship?) under a federal law, with state-specific tweaks here and there. Leave it to Rudy to sidle up to the my-cold-dead-hands base at the moment when even some gun-loving Virginians are doubting their beliefs in the wake of a senseless bloodbath. Oh, Rudy: They still won't like you, and now you'll hate yourself too. Rudy No Longer Interested in Federal Mandate on Handguns [Politico]

At Last Minute, Bill Clinton Hits the ACORN Gala

The 25th anniversary gala for ACORN, the national nonprofit that advocates on behalf of low- and moderate-income families, was held at Citigroup Center last night, and the group had a major headliner as their guest: Bill Clinton. It's no surprise that Clinton would support a social-justice organization like ACORN — indeed, the Clinton Foundation and ACORN work together on several projects — but, as it happens, ACORN officials were pretty surprised that Clinton was actually on hand last night. According to one insider, both Bill and Hillary were invited to the event about a month ago, and both declined to attend. But just a few days ago, the insider says — and, we should note, after a week of great week of publicity in New York for Barack Obama, Hillary's rival from the Democratic presidential nomination — Bill's people called ACORN to re-invite him. He was set to join mayoral contenders Adolfo Carrion, Christine Quinn, Anthony Weiner, and Bill Thompson, former Mets slugger Mo Vaughan, and actress Cynthia Nixon (who ultimately didn't show) at the gala. Hillary, according to her schedule, stayed in Washington. —Geoffrey Gray


• Clipper Equity's ingenious PR notwithstanding, the would-be Starrett City buyer was thwarted again. On Saturday, the state's Housing Commissioner rejected the firm's second bid for the complex, concerned with the group's poor track record in the area. [TheStreet.com] • A blaze in a Bronx apartment building injured 53 people by AM New York's count (the Post has the number at 41), including 14 firefighters. The three-alarm fire began on the first floor and quickly spread up and out through hallways. [amNY, NYP] • Barack Obama (who evidently can't just come to a city; he either "swings through" or "invades" it) is back in New York for more fund-raising. He'll hang at a couple of good addresses before stopping by the Letterman show. Obama's previous New York City take is estimated at $3 million. [NYDN] • Bush knew. About Bernie Kerik's past, that is, when NYC's then-top cop was nominated to head Homeland Security. Thus, the doomed pick could have been a purely political gesture. Oh, and Alberto Gonzales had a hand in it, too. [NYP] • And East Hampton becomes a two-newspaper town: The Press, an import from one town over, is taking on the 122-year-old local institution the Star (as New York reported last month). Get ready for war. [NYT]

Gee, Man

• Friendly fire from fellow FBI men killed an agent in the middle of an operation in Readington, New Jersey. The Feds were taking down a gang of armed bank robbers, one of whom escaped and remains on the loose. [NYP] • David Bistricer of Clipper Equity, the thwarted would-be buyer of the Starrett City housing megacomplex, is back. This time, he cobbled together a camera-ready coalition: a lobbyist with Spitzer connections, an architect, and two black ministers. [NYT] • More awesomeness from Rudy Giuliani's traveling road show: The presidential candidate began a stump speech in California with a Godfather impersonation, then referred to his wife as "a civilian, to use the old Mafia distinction." Yeah, he's a shoo-in. [amNY] • Geese are driving ducks out of Central Park, so the city is bringing in border collies to drive out the geese. Before we make a "who's going to drive out the dogs" joke, let's pause and reflect on the fact that there's a company called Geese Police Inc. on the city payroll. [NYT] • And a strong contestant for the dumbest con ever: An unemployed Brooklynite siphoned off $3.6 million from a city account at JPMorgan Chase (by rigging up 604 individual electronic transfers), spent it through Jewelry TV, then tried to pawn the baubles for cash. [NYDN]

Jersey Jackals

• The Times reveals that the Garden State has been regularly raiding its own state-worker pension fund, funneling billions into other government projects. Given the size of its public sector, disaster looms; New Jersey, we thought better of you. [NYT] • Activists in East Harlem faced bulldozers in a dramatic, and failed, showdown over a community garden. The site, on 110th and Fifth, is being cleared for the future Museum for African Art — and, of course, a luxury condo tower. [amNY] • The Giuliani campaign, God's gift to tabloids, has turned to Rudy's international-policy experience: "I've probably been in foreign lands more than any other candidate" as a private consultant, he assured New Hampshire and hinted he'll hit Iraq next. [NYDN] • The Knitting Factory, the Tribeca music institution, is promising not to go the way of Tonic, Sin-é, CBGB, and many others: Should the rent skyrocket when its lease runs out, the club will try buying the whole building. [MetroNY] • And midtown's old-money hangout/tourist trap '21' Club has even longer arms than previously thought: It just stopped the Pittsburgh Pirates from naming a stadium sports bar "Club 21." Because otherwise the two would be indistinguishable. [NYP]

Someone, Think of the Children!

• The state budget is here — virtually on time! — and guess what provision made it in while everyone was busy arguing about hospital cuts? A program that makes 400,000 uninsured children eligible for near-free health care. [NYT] • Hillary Clinton set a record for pre-primary fund-raising, drumming up $26 million in the first three months of 2007. Her war chest now totals $36 million, with ten left over from the layup Senate campaign. Obama is at $20 million. And Chris Dodd apparently has subway fare. [NYDN] • Q: When does the Post become touchy-feely about animal welfare? A: When it helps torpedo a Giuliani. Turns out that in the seventies, Judith then-Nathan used to shill for a medical-supply firm that put surgical staples on live dogs during sales demonstrations. Ew. [NYP] • Today's USA Today profiles, in heroic prose ("tempers flare as forklifts dart"), the armed federal agents patrolling the Fulton Fish Market for illegal clams. It seems 750 probes into local seafood-smuggling operations were launched in the last year alone. [USAT] • And a new Arabic middle school will take up the top floor of Park Slope's P.S. 282, which put the nabe's parents in a somewhat un–Park Slope–ian nativist tizzy — with some threatening to pull their kids out. Thing is, it'll be an Arabic language school, not a madrassa. [MetroNY]

Giuliani Loses a Second Bushie

Rudy Giuliani's front-running presidential campaign has lost a key staffer with connections to Karl Rove. Margaret Hoover joined Giuliani's Solutions America PAC in September to help direct fund-raising operations, but her greater value was to shore up the former mayor's credentials with conservatives and to signal Giuliani's seriousness about a White House run. Hoover, a great-granddaughter of the 31st president and an intergovernmental-affairs aide to Rove before taking the Giuliani job, brought important national campaign experience to the team, having worked for Bush-Cheney '04.

Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!

• We were kinda hoping this wouldn't come out until, say, a week before the primaries, but take it away, Times: Rudy Giuliani was briefed on Bernie Kerik's unsavory dossier, including the commish's possible mafia ties, in 2000. Then Rudy made him the city's top cop. [NYT] • New Jersey governor Jon Corzine has already picked a side of the Dem roster for 2008: He's officially endorsing Hillary. (The State Senate president, Richard Codey, is a John Edwards man.) This is not insignificant considering N.J.'s extra-early primary date. [WNBC] • Long Island police are investigating nightmarish scenarios after severed limbs "with pink toenail polish" washed up in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester. There's also a torso in a Wal-Mart suitcase, and revolting details galore for the curious. [Newsday] • Since we're reminiscing about Rudy, how about a big fat Catholic controversy around a work of art? Cosimo Cavallaro is planning an Easter exhibit of an anatomically correct (of course) chocolate (of course) Jesus (of course), and he swears the timing is coincidental (yeah, right). [NYDN] • And meanwhile a polyester-resin security guard named Artie, installed in the lobby of a Uniondale office tower, causes no controversy whatsoever. Probably because he's inedible. [NYT]

The Eartha Kitt Primary: Go Obama!

Obama and Bloomberg get a thumbs-up, and Hillary gets a raised eyebrow, from the inimitable Eartha Kitt. The still very spry singer and dancer, who turned 80 in January, plays a fortune-teller in a Kander and Ebb musical, All About Us, coming to the Westport Country Playhouse. At a sneak peek of the show this week, we asked about her '08 presidential picks. "I'm for my country, not politicians who go blah blah blah," purred the eternal Catwoman, who spent a decade shut out of gigs in this country after she denounced the Vietnam War during a 1968 White House visit.

Mother of Mercy, Is This the End of San Gennaro?

• Now that's not very Italian! A subcommittee of Little Italy's community board voted against approving the annual San Gennaro feast, calling it a noisy nuisance. (The CB's votes are merely recommendations to the city, though.) Zeppoles will fly! [NYDN] • Every night can be a night at the museum if you're the lucky (and rich) person who paid $276,000 for a dinosaur skull, or $4,500 for a mummy's hand, at yesterday's I.M. Chait Gallery natural-history auction. [NYT] • Hillary sets a new early fund-raising record, trotting out five-star attraction Bill and netting an Obama-and-Edwards-are-gagging-worthy $10 mil over four events in one week. [NYDN] • Not just the real thing, but kosher, too. The just-for-Passover version of Coca-Cola — made with real sugar, not corn syrup, because corn's among the Passover no-nos — is again available in area supermarkets. [NYP] • State Senator Jeff Klein wants to rat out (ha!) dirty restaurants by giving eateries an A-through-F health grade they must post at their doors. Can penitent taco chains earn an "E" for effort? [amNY]

The British Are Coming!

• Remember Steven Johnson, the freak who terrorized Bar Veloce in 2002, splashing kerosene on patrons? Well, he just got 240 years in prison. Yeah, we don't know what took five years, either. [NYP] • Renaming corners, part one: A coalition of local businesses, backed by no less than Virgin Airways, is campaigning to call a slice of the West Village "Little Britain." The stage-one strategy apparently involves sub–Benny Hill humor. ("What's one more queen in the Village?") [MetroNY] • Renaming corners, part two: Elaine Orbach may yet get the intersection of 53rd and Eighth named after her late husband, Jerry. After striking out with the grumpy Community Board 5, she found fans on Board 4 — which controls the west side of the same avenue. [NYT] • In a high-tech twist on a classic, a married couple is suing a Park Avenue clinic for allegedly inseminating the wife with the wrong man's sperm: The father is white, the mother Dominican, the baby black. [NYDN] • And New York has joined more than twenty states moving their presidential primaries up to February 5. With any luck, Assemblyman Keith Wright's coinage for the occasion — "Super-Duper Tuesday" — won't get any kind of traction in the media. Oh, crap, we just did it. [NYT]

America Loves Rudy More Than Ever; New York, Not So Much

The Gallup Poll people released new numbers on the Republican presidential contenders today, and they only buttress the emerging consensus that Rudy Giuliani, who used to be New York’s tyrannical mayor before he came America’s beloved one, is the nominal front-runner. Forty-eight percent of liberal and moderate Republicans — granted a group that might be about twelve people big these days — said they preferred Giuliani; 26 percent picked the second-place finisher, John McCain. But even among conservative GOPers, the thrice-married moderate came in first, with 38 percent of respondents picking him to McCain’s 20 percent. And here’s the knockout punch: A whopping 80 percent of all Republicans holds a favorable impression of Giuliani. That’s huge — and “until he's not defined by 9/11," the Politico’s Jonathan Martin writes, "those fav/unfav numbers probably don't come down.” But, then, those are national numbers. Contrast them with local poll results reported today by Crain's New York Business. There, 70 percent of respondents agreed that Rudy lacks the temperament to be president, presumably recalling his performance up through September 10, 2001. Of course, this Crain's poll, unlike Gallup’s, was online and unscientific. On the other hand, its respondents were people who have actually, you know, been governed by the guy. Ah, memories. Gallup on Rudy's Lead [The Politico] Giuliani Not Fit for the White House: Poll [Crain's]

Blazin' With Hillary

About 40 young moneymakers with neat hair and well-fitting suits arrived at a midtown restaurant last night for the first, unpublicized meeting of the HillBlazers Committee. HillBlazers is the oddly Young Republican–sounding name — we imagine those blazers in navy, accented by repp ties and pleated khakis — the Hillary-for-president folks have given to the wealthy under-45ers who will spend the next two years fund-raising for the campaign. "Interestingly, there were more men than women," at the meeting, a spy told us. "I would say it was a 60-40 ratio. There were clearly a lot of hedge-funders, people who work in finance. It was very crew cut."