Hillary's opponent? Don't ask, don't tell

Republicans are excited about using Jeanine Pirro to bloody up Clinton before she can run for president. Is she up to the task?


T.g.
August 9, 2005 9:45PM (UTC)

Is Jeanine Pirro gunning for Hillary Clinton's job -- or for Scott McClellan's?

The district attorney from Westchester County announced yesterday that she intends to run against New York's junior senator in 2006. But when pressed on her views -- she's a moderate Republican, which could make it hard for her to capture the Republican nomination -- Pirro gave the sort of "no comment" performance that would have done a certain White House press secretary proud.

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The New York Times' Patrick Healy lays it out in quick succession: "Ms. Pirro repeatedly declined yesterday to outline her positions on abortion, gay rights, Social Security private accounts and stem cell research. When asked if she considered herself a Bush Republican, she declined to embrace that description, too. 'I'm going to be Jeanine Pirro -- I'm not someone you can categorize as this, that or the other thing,' she said."

Of course, there are a couple of ways to categorize Pirro. One would be "long shot." Another would be "sacrificial lamb." Although Hillary Clinton may still be a polarizing figure in some parts of the country, she's awfully popular in her adopted home state. A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this month showed her with an impressive 63-29 percent approval rating among New York voters and a commanding 64-25 lead over Pirro in the 2006 race.

Republicans can't admit publicly that Pirro has almost no chance at beating Clinton -- that would really kill the fundraising, wouldn't it? -- but they've plainly got something beyond 2006 on their minds: RNC press secretary Tracey Schmitt told the Times that the 2006 race would provide an early opportunity for a Republican challenger to hold Clinton accountable for any moves to the center she might make as she prepared for a presidential run. That doesn't sound like a call to victory, exactly.

And you've got to wonder if Pirro is really the best tool for even the more limited job that may be assigned to her. As a moderate, it will be hard for her to complain that Hillary shares some of her views on social issues. And as someone with man troubles of her own -- Pirro's husband was convicted of income tax fraud in 2000 -- it won't be easy for Pirro to saddle the senator with Bill Clinton's baggage.

As the Times notes, Pirro has occasionally lost her composure while defending her husband. Will she fight back if her political opponents make hay out of her husband's past during the Senate race? Pirro wouldn't answer that question yesterday, either.

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