Politics & Policy

Lazio’s New York Minute

He shouldn't waste it.

If New York Republican Senate candidate Rick Lazio has any chance to overtake Hillary Clinton, he has got to stop running for mayor of Jerusalem, and instead reignite his issues campaign.

In all my years of watching and participating in politics never have I seen a candidate go further off message than Lazio has managed to do in the past ten or twelve days.

Not all of this is his fault. The Republican state committee ad to link the Yemen terrorist blowup of the U.S.S. Cole to Hillary Clinton is one of the stupidest, lug-head decisions in recent American politics. Whether this clunk-head action should be laid at the doorstep of Gov. Pataki, his top political aid Zenia Mucha, or state chairman Bill Powers, is still unknown, but the consequences of this ad have been devastating for Lazio.

Even at this late date, perhaps there is still a small window of opportunity for the Long Islander to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. This morning’s Zogby poll shows Hillary ahead by 49 percent to 45 percent, a slight narrowing from yesterday’s 50-43 Hillary lead. But Lazio has got to start talking issues — New York issues. Especially tax-cut issues, which link to economic growth in New York, and most particularly should be used to reconnect with the pivotal upstate electorate where growth has been lagging for many years.

Lazio should be pounding away in speeches and on television with Manhattan Institute’s E. J. McMahon’s analysis that, in rough terms, Lazio’s tax cuts would bring $4 billion in revenues back the Empire State while Hillary’s tax proposal would reclaim only $1 billion in tax transfers to New York from Washington.

Lazio should be invoking retiring senator Pat Moynihan who has long argued that New Yorkers pay far more to Washington than they get back in return. Lazio should emphasize the pro-growth, pro-capital-formation, and pro-worker-benefits of his plan to deduct Social Security tax payments from the tax returns filed by middle-income households in the 15% and 28% brackets.

He should also promote his plan to eliminate the marriage penalty, and — to bring high-risk capital back to New York — he should be selling his proposals to cut the capital-gains tax rate and eliminate the estate tax. New York State has a burgeoning high-tech sector, and cap-gains and estate-tax relief will attract venture capital, while his income-tax relief will make it more rewarding for an expanded workforce.

Tax cuts and economic-growth plans turned the tide in favor of George Pataki over Mario Cuomo in the waning days of the 1994 gubernatorial race. It is tragic that Lazio has lost this theme in recent weeks. New York is an overtaxed and under-worked state. When offered a choice, New York voters of all political stripes and ethnic varieties always favor supply-side tax cuts — no matter how liberal they may be on social issues. Lazio has just got to hammer away on tax cuts and growth.

Also, with an eye on the upstate constituency, Lazio should be talking about banning partial-birth abortions and again invoke the support of Sen. Moynihan on this issue.

And there’s a third Moynihan position: personal retirement accounts for Social Security reform. Moynihan has been one of George Bush’s strongest supporters on this issue. Lazio should be linking himself as much as possible to the retiring and popular New York senator, who has exhibited only lukewarm support at best for Hillary’s campaign.

Lazio should also be talking bout the disastrous Hillary-care effort in the early ’90s to federalize health care — reminding New Yorkers that she still clings to this policy, one that would decimate New York teaching hospitals, HMOs, and nursing homes.

And then he should also get back to the theme of school choice for education reform, which continues to attract support in minority and immigrant areas. Finally, Lazio should get back to his initial theme that Mrs. Clinton is a carpetbagger — she is not a real New Yorker and she has never been embraced by New York voters. Throw in a dose of Lincoln-bedroom financing scandals and the apparent Hillary dissembling over Travelgate, as well.

At this late date, the New York race might be over. But polls show there’s still a small opportunity for Lazio. But he must start pounding away on core issues — kitchen-table issues, like taxes and the economy and whether people will trust a woman who has swooped in from Washington without any local roots.

The Long Islander should leave Israeli-Palestinian talks to the State Department and George Bush. This is a New York race, and there’s still a New York minute for Rick Lazio.


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