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When running for the Senate, there's a problem in being the Congressman Most Likely to Be Mistaken for a Page. You may no longer need a stentorian voice or mane of white hair to graduate to a seat in the American House of Lords, but a little gravitas, a bit of Olympian detachment or at least a few outsize personality quirks help. Hillary has the latter in spades and rock-star fame. And while Rudy Giuliani may have been too knee-in-the-groin nasty to attract all the anti-Hillary votes, the fresh-faced Lazio could be just too aw-shucks nice, a slice of Velveeta on white in a state with a decided taste for roquefort on rye, a place where full-frontal egomaniacs like Ed Koch, Bella Abzug and Al D'Amato have thrived and from where larger-than-life figures like Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Robert Kennedy have held court. Even Chuck Schumer is a strong cup of coffee. Not since John Lindsay have New Yorkers bought into boyish.
Lazio may be more willing to add some rough edges to his Little League, High School Stamp Club and Youth for Ford persona if his early successes hadn't come without his having had to bare his teeth. While Lazio rightly gets credit for a David vs. Goliath victory over 18-year veteran Tom Downey in 1992, Downey largely defeated himself. In the memorable words of the national Republican Party chairman, the party was willing to "stuff money into every orifice" to capitalize on the weakness of an incumbent already hemorrhaging from self-inflicted wounds, like overdrafts at the House Bank and jet skiing in Barbados on a junket filmed by ABC.
Lazio may see even less reason to risk going negative in this race, when his opponent's unfavorables may already be high enough to do her in. Otherwise reliably Democratic women were willing to vote for the otherwise unpalatable Giuliani because of their distaste for Hillary's assumption of derivative power, her high-handed bungling of health-care reform, her seeming deal with her husband for silence in exchange for career advancement, aggravated by the famous sight of their dancing on the beach in the Virgin Islands and, more recently, of her giggling like a newlywed after their first night in the new house in Chappaqua. Lazio may think that Hillary does well enough spiking her own negatives without any help from him and that this could be the year, even in New York, when the nice guy finishes first.