Danny and Allison, Part 1

They're young, Jewish professionals who routinely split their ticket. So far, they lean toward Rudy because they say Hillary doesn't seem to have any principles.

By Jake Tapper

Published November 22, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

Danny, 29, and his wife Allison, 30, live in New York City. Danny's a labor lawyer; Allison's an executive in the fashion industry. And if the election for the New York Senate seat were held today, both would be voting for Mayor Rudy Giuliani over his likely Democratic opponent, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"Who cares?!" you might -- understandably -- ask.

Well, Clinton and Giuliani care. Or they should, at any rate. Because Danny and Allison are two near-perfect representatives of the swing voters who will decide next year's Senate race.

Danny's a registered Democrat, Allison a registered Republican; both routinely split their tickets. Danny voted for Clinton for president twice, incumbent Mayor David Dinkins over Giuliani in '93, Ruth Messenger against Mayor Giuliani in '97. Allison voted to re-elect President George Bush in '92, went with Clinton in '96, supported Giuliani on both of his recent mayoral runs. In 1998, the couple supported both Republican Gov. George Pataki in his re-election contest, and Democrat Chuck Schumer over incumbent GOP Sen. Al D'Amato.

Danny and Allison hail from the suburbs where the Senate fight will be waged -- he's from Long Island and she's from Westchester County.

They're Jewish, well-educated, higher-income -- just the sorts of voters who, according to polls, are either split down the middle between the two candidates, or are, as of now, leaning toward Giuliani.

New York voters as a whole are split 47 percent to 42 percent in favor of Giuliani, according to a Quinnipiac College poll conducted in early November. An even more enlightening poll came from CBS News and the New York Times at the end of October, which indicated that almost 70 percent of the voters have already made up their minds. With so many voters already adamantly in favor (or opposed) to the candidates, the battle will now come down to a relative handful of New Yorkers.

Thus, Danny and Allison -- both of whom say they support Giuliani, though that might change -- are precisely the people whose votes will be crucial to the outcome a year from now.

Clinton is "in a difficult position because she's got dual roles right now," Danny says. "One being the first lady, the other being a future Senate candidate. But because of that, some of her actions -- or more accurately, her inactions -- show that she lacks conviction on issues important to New Yorkers."

Danny's clearly not just referring to the fact that the first lady was in Chicago the night the Yankees clinched the World Series. Clinton's far more significant slip came last week, during a visit to Ramallah in the West Bank, when Suha Arafat -- the wife of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat -- standing next to the first lady, made the ludicrous statement that the Palestinian "people have been subjected to the daily intensive use of poisonous gas by the Israeli forces, which have led to an increase in cancer cases among women and children."

Clinton's response was to stay quiet, reportedly so she didn't upset the delicate balance of the peace process. But, as the New York Times editorial board noted on Tuesday, "a more adroit diplomat ... might have been alert to the highly charged atmosphere and weighed in with something distancing herself from the comment. Mrs. Clinton did not do so until that night, after the controversy was in full boil."

The security of Israel -- and the terrorist history of Yasir Arafat -- are obviously issues of tremendous emotional resonance for Jewish voters like Danny and Allison who make up 12 percent of the Empire State electorate. Of the various ethnic voting blocks, Jewish voters traditionally vote Democratic by a majority only surpassed by African-Americans.

But in this race, as of right now, the two candidates are statistically tied among Jewish voters -- 46 percent for Clinton and 43 percent for Giuliani, according to the Quinnipiac College poll, which was taken before the incident in Ramallah.

Why is Clinton's support so soft among such traditionally reliable Democrats like Danny? He, for one, thinks that Clinton only acts "after she's had the time to assess the political implications of her actions."

Giuliani, on the other hand, "is probably the exact opposite," Danny says. "Sometimes I think he acts right away without thinking of the implications of his actions at all. And for the most part," says the Democratic voter, "I would take somebody who reacts quickly out of conviction over someone who reacts slowly based on political considerations."

The New York Times editorial board is similarly unimpressed. "In order to mount a competitive campaign, Mrs. Clinton has to reassure New Yorkers that reversals and vacillations are the errors of a novice candidate rather than typical of her approach to foreign policy."

On Nov. 15, the Democratic Party chairwoman of New York, Judith Hope, told an AP reporter that Clinton needs to "give up her day job" and focus more on her campaign. "Maybe she needs to put a cot in that house in Chappaqua and move in there," Hope said. "She may have to give her all for New York. We're a demanding group."

The next day, the Republican National Committee had a cot delivered to the White House west gate.

For its part, Clinton's campaign has been coming out swinging as of late, hammering Giuliani for flip-flopping on the proposed minimum wage increase, trying desperately to tie Giuliani to the GOP-controlled Senate. Other attempts to weigh Giuliani down with congressional Republicans followed. Clinton pointed out that a House GOP proposal to initiate a 1-percent across-the-board cut to all discretionary programs would deprive New Yorkers of millions in funding for Head Start, new police officers, education and children's nutrition programs.

Danny and Allison are no fans of the GOP Congress, but they're split on the effectiveness of Clinton's attempts to mar Giuliani's image with the stain of right-wingers down in Washington. Danny agrees that "the idea of giving up [Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's] Democratic seat in the Senate makes me somewhat hesitant to vote for Giuliani, and it does add to any other hesitation I might have." Allison, on the other hand, doesn't think about Giuliani in terms of his adding heft to the GOP's Senate majority -- for her it's just about the New York Senate race itself, functioning in something of a vacuum.

The effectiveness of this line of attack, however, is in question. Neither Danny nor Allison -- regular newspaper readers -- have heard much about the minimum wage brouhaha. Nor do they care much about the "Sensation" imbroglio at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. They don't pay much attention to political ads, nor are they aware of the flap over Clinton's ads being funded by the controversial "soft money" that has gotten her husband's administration into hot water.

For them, at this stage in the game, it still just comes down to a choice between a feisty, often needlessly combative man who has been part of New York City politics for their entire adult lives versus a clueless, aloof woman married to a disappointing character who has never previously owned so much as a birdhouse in their home state.

And whereas Danny concedes that he'll probably go back and forth on the two candidates over the next year, Allison wrinkles her nose at Clinton's mere mention. In this, Allison is not unlike a plurality of New York white women, who support Giuliani over Sister Hillary, 48 percent to 38 percent.

White women, it should be noted, have been on the winning side in every New York statewide race in almost a full decade.

"It would take a lot to get me to vote for Hillary Clinton," Allison says. "I don't think she has integrity. I think she swings and goes with the wind. Giuliani's probably better as a mayor [than he would be as a senator], but I think he knows what New Yorkers need. I'll be pretty happy to vote for him."

Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper is the senior White House correspondent for ABC News.

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