New York to Country: 'C'mere!'

It would be the political version of the Subway Series.

Instead of pitting New York's baseball teams, the Yankees and the Mets, against each other, it would match Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton against former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the 2008 presidential contest.

Yes, it may be a long shot to happen, but far from impossible.

Two other New Yorkers have also been mentioned for a possible presidential bid: outgoing Gov. George Pataki and Michael Bloomberg, Giuliani's successor in the mayor's chair.

But Bloomberg says he will not run, and the buzz has centered on a Rudy-Hillary contest.

A woman on Manhattan's Upper West Side did not want to be identified as we took to the sidewalks there to take the electorate's pulse, but she told us she was excited at the prospect of an all-New York matchup: "We raise good people."

Of course, some New Yorkers still say Clinton isn't really one of them.

Some expressed ambivalence like Athena Foroglou: "Yes and no, meaning she doesn't have to be a good New Yorker to do a good job of representing New York. She doesn't have to be born here to be an accomplished politician."

Most of those we spoke to had decided that her Illinois birthplace and Arkansas background no longer mattered, not after she had won two terms as the junior senator from the Empire State.

For a brief period, Giuliani and Clinton paired off against each other in the 2000 Senate race.

Early in the contest, Clinton made a PR slip during a trip to the Middle East when she embraced the wife of then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Suha Arafat.

The hug came shortly after Suha Arafat delivered a speech accusing Israel of poisoning the water that Palestinians drink.

Giuliani pounced, saying Clinton should have immediately denounced the accusation.

The media loved the race, which was shaping up as a classic struggle between heavyweights. But Giuliani pulled out of the campaign after discovering he had prostate cancer.

Now Giuliani has set up an organization in New York to explore the possibility of a run for the White House. Clinton is also known to be seriously looking at a run for the house she and her husband once occupied.

Some New Yorkers think one of their own, whether it be Clinton or Giuliani, can never win.

Gene Fischer said, "The Midwest is very conservative, and they would never vote straight out for a New Yorker."

And he thinks Clinton carries an additional burden. Most Americans, he said, "don't want women" as their president.

A Manhattanite who didn't give his name likes Clinton, but thinks Giuliani stands a better chance in the rest of the country: "He's beyond the city. He's an international hero. That changes everything."

Most political pros believe Giuliani would have great difficulty winning the GOP presidential nomination because of a messy divorce from his second wife and because of his liberal stance on some issues.

He is pro-gun control, pro-gay rights, and a supporter of abortion rights.

Still, recent national polls of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents have put Giuliani either ahead of or in a dead heat with a fellow Republican, Sen. John McCain.

How do New Yorkers feel about Giuliani and Clinton in a potential presidential contest?

A poll of New Yorkers last summer put Giuliani ahead. But a new Siena College Research Institute poll released on Wednesday puts Clinton ahead of both Giuliani and McCain.

Registered New York state voters favored Clinton over Giuliani, 53 percent to 39 percent. In a matchup with McCain, she would win New Yorkers, 55 percent to 36 percent, according to the poll.

Clinton is coming off a smashing victory in her Senate race, which may give her an edge at the moment. But it's clear that New Yorkers like both the former first lady and the former mayor of the Big Apple.

Finally, leaving out the rest of the state, how do registered voters in New York City alone rate the home-staters?

A new Quinnipiac University Institute Polling poll found the city folk rated Clinton as the best prospective president.

When asked who would make a "great" president, they put Clinton first with 28 percent, followed by Giuliani at 14 percent, Bloomberg at 7 percent, and Pataki at 3 percent.

The director of the polling institute, Maurice Carroll, said, "New Yorkers are a tough crowd. Mayor Bloomberg, Gov. George Pataki, and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani all fail to hit the 50-percent mark as potentially 'good' presidents, let alone 'great.'"

"The one New York star," he said, "who a lot of politicians think might really run -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton -- scores the highest."