Clinton vs. Giuliani, The Sequel?

Even by the larger-than-life standards of New York politics, the campaign to retire Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's open seat in 2000 was a monumental battle.

When Hillary Clinton — who made history as the first former first lady to run for public office, and Rudy Giuliani, New York City's mayor and former prosecutor who'd brought down the mob — both ran for the seat, it was the most exciting race in decades.

The equivalent of Godzilla vs. King Kong or Ali vs. Frazier, it was a heavyweight fight that never made it past the first few rounds, leaving political junkies hanging with frustrated anticipation.

The much anticipated showdown, with polls showing a virtual dead heat, was called off when Giuliani dropped out of the race May 19, 2000, when he learned he had prostate cancer. Clinton went on to easily beat Rick Lazio, a weak candidate, who was the only viable Republican remaining in the field.

So, for New Yorkers, the current presidential campaign, with Giuliani and Clinton running at the front of the pack, inspires a strong sense of deja vu, the long-awaited sequel to a classic feud.

"This is the unfinished fight that we didn't have in 2000," says Doug Muzzio, a professor of public affairs at New York's Baruch College. "For the last couple of weeks in that race, they were in a virtual dead heat. This time around, it looks like they will win their party primaries and we'll get that showdown."

Political consultant George Arzt remembers that contest well. "Everyone looked forward to the Senate race — it would have been a bruising race," he says. "Now we're getting the postponed race. If the polls continue like this, it's going to be a brass-knuckled fight."

And just like in the movies, this time the combatants are bigger and stronger.

Compared to their iconic status today, the 2000-era Clinton and Giuliani had significant weaknesses. At the time, Clinton was an untested quantity, pitied by many for her role as the dutiful wife forced to endure her husband's infidelity, and reviled by many conservatives.

Giuliani was a lame duck mayor whose greatest achievements — slashing the crime rate and taming New York — were behind him, and New Yorkers had grown tired of his ornery nature and were ready for a change.

Over the past seven years, Clinton has become a powerful member of the Senate's inner circle, respected on both sides of the aisle, and Giuliani was transformed into "America's Mayor" for his calm and steady role in leading the city on 9/11.

The Rematch: Who's Ahead

Of course, it's early in the race and both candidates face pressure from strong competitors in their parties, but if it comes down to these old antagonists, who would win the rematch? While Giuliani often claims that he's the only Republican who can beat Clinton, they're both in a statistical dead heat, according to a recent poll.

As for the money game, Clinton has raised more than $90 million with $50 million in cash at hand, besting Giuliani's $47 million with $16.6 million in cash at hand. And she seems to have an advantage in a comparison between the two candidates' campaign contributors from both races.

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