Middle East Politics Enter New York Senate Race with Hillary Clinton
By Munir K. Nasser
Chief Correspondent, Washington, DC
Middle Eastern politics have entered one of the closely watched races for the US Senate with the heated contest between Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton and her Republican challenger Rick Lazio.
Hillary Clinton went to the polls on Tuesday morning and voted with her husband, President Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea, at an elementary school in Chappaqua, New York. The Clintons bought a house last year in Chappaqua, an affluent suburban town 40 miles north of New York City, to qualify Clinton to run for the Senate as a resident of New York State.
President Clinton told reporters that his wife “is going to win today. You can't put me down as undecided." After voting, Clinton returned home and she is planning to go to a Manhattan hotel where she will follow the voting returns and address her supporters later after the results are announced.
In recent weeks, the race has taken a nasty turn, with much of the fighting over the Middle East, as the candidates scramble for New York's 12 percent Jewish vote. Her Republican opponent Rick Lazio has always portrayed the first lady as a fair-weather friend of Israel, citing her early support for Palestinian statehood and her embrace of Suha Arafat. But in the wake of a campaign-cash brawl over Clinton's relationship with a few anti-Israel activists, Lazio has essentially accused her of promoting terrorism. And she lashed back after Republicans called voters to link her to the bombing of the USS Cole, tearing Lazio for politicizing a tragedy.
In an attempt to win Jewish votes in New York, Lazio has attacked Clinton for taking campaign donations from a Muslim group, some of the members of which Lazio said have made comments advocating terrorism against Israel. Clinton returned the donations but said Lazio's ads were misleading and inaccurate.
Political analysts believe that if Hillary Clinton wins, she may well emerge as a leader of the Democratic Party, especially if Vice President Gore loses the presidency. And while she had never lived or worked in New York before last year, and she had never run for any public office, she was hanging yesterday to a slim but steady lead in the polls.
The first lady is still probably the most polarizing woman in America, and the emotional stakes of this election may be as high as the political ones. Unlike Gore, the first lady has enthusiastically embraced her husband's legacy, publicizing the administration's record of creating jobs, cutting crime and increasing homeownership. And even though she has distanced herself from the president when his stands have played poorly in New York, particularly on Middle East issues, he has campaigned hard for her in front of wildly enthusiastic crowds.
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