Hillary Clinton holds edge in New York

Click to follow

On the last day of a campaign that began in a Catskills hayfield 16 months ago and closes tonight in a hotel ballroom in Manhattan, Hillary Rodham Clinton bounded across the state of New York yesterday pleading with the Democratic faithful to turn out and vote.

On the last day of a campaign that began in a Catskills hayfield 16 months ago and closes tonight in a hotel ballroom in Manhattan, Hillary Rodham Clinton bounded across the state of New York yesterday pleading with the Democratic faithful to turn out and vote.

Accompanied by local heroes, television celebrities and by her daughter, Chelsea, Mrs Clinton skipped from city to city and from borough to borough in a final effort not so much to win over last remaining waverers but to electrify her supporters.

While recent surveys have given the First Lady a convincing edge over her Republican opponent, Rick Lazio, in the race for the US Senate here, aides in her campaign continue to worry that a low turn-out today could rob her of victory. "Listen, this is very important," the comedian Bill Cosby exhorted hundreds of students at a state college in Buffalo. "I would like every person here to call a friend - a friend who has said to you they are not going to vote - and take that friend with you to vote."

Mrs Clinton, who romped on to the stage to pump her fists to the live music of the rock band 10,000 Maniacs, issued the same warning she had been sounding for several days. Those who sit out today won't have the right to complain about politicians later. "If you don't vote, you lose the right to determine what will happen in the future and you give that right to somebody else," she said in Buffalo, before flying to Albany and New York City. "Call someone, spread the word, e-mail everyone on your list."

It seems a long time since the summer of 1999, when the First Lady strolled self-consciously down a track on the farm of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan - whose shoes she's hoping to fill - and confirmed to a throng of reporters what has already been clear for months: that she was going to run. Tonight she will know whether she decided wisely.

When they come in, the results will bring to an end the most extensive Senate race in American history and the most closely watched political contest this year, aside from that for the White House.

They will also tell us whether Mrs Clinton will indeed make the history books as the first wife of a sitting US president to achieve elected office.

Tonight will also close the book on a campaign of many unexpected turns, notably the decision last spring by the New York mayor Rudy Giuliani to pull out of the race, leaving the way for the youthful and somewhat lightweight Mr Lazio, a US representative from Long Island. Not so unexpected was the brutality of the campaign in its final stretch.

This past week has been dominated by acrimony sparked by a Republican effort to use an appearance made by Mrs Clinton at an event sponsored by Muslim Americans improbably to suggest she somehow supports terrorism against Israel and last month's attack on the USS Cole.

The omens for the First Lady seem good. A Daily News poll on Sunday gave her a seven-point lead. Mrs Clinton will easily capture the vote in New York City and the poll showed her winning 2-1 among Jewish voters. In Buffalo, her ebullience was obvious. She gloried in sharing the adulation of the crowd of this city's favourite hero, the Buffalo Bills quarterback Doug Flutie. And she plunged into the throng when she was done to shake hands, the Maniacs breaking out in song behind her. Privately, aides still cautioned against over confidence, again citing turn-out.

A low turn-out usually favours Republicans, in part because some groups that normally support Democrats are also those first to stay at home, including African-Americans. And however historic this race may be, the numbers voting in New York may yet be low because the presidential race has barely touched the state, which is secure for Al Gore.

And then there is this. There is a large portion of voters who would not vote for Mrs Clinton if she paid them $1,000 each. Or even $10,000. And the Hillary haters will be the first to the polling stations today. It will take a strong turn-out among Democrats to repel them.

Comments