New York’s Republican leaders moved smoothly and swiftly Wednesday to switch their support from Rudolph Giuliani to John McCain for next Tuesday’s state presidential primary.
Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, and state party Chairman Joseph Mondello were among those orchestrating and announcing the change on the morning after McCain’s victory in the Florida primary. Giuliani, who had not come close to winning any primary or caucus, had staked his campaign on Florida.
The state leaders acted several hours before Giuliani endorsed McCain in California Wednesday afternoon, but they had already been told by the former New York City mayor that he was going to drop out and back the Arizona senator.
With polls already showing McCain ahead in New York even before Giuliani pulled out of the race, Wednesday’s events make him the overwhelming favorite to win New York’s Republican primary on “Super Tuesday,” thus capturing all of the state’s 101 delegates.
However, Craig Stevens, a spokesman for the Mitt Romney campaign, said Giuliani’s withdrawal shows the fluidity of the race. Romney hopes to do well on Super Tuesday by stressing the issue of the economy, Stevens said, and that should resonate in upstate New York.
Romney came in second to McCain in Florida, and is also second to him in the number of delegates won so far in primaries and caucuses.
On the Democratic side, polls show home state Sen. Hillary Clinton remaining far ahead of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in the presidential race in New York.
Assemblyman Jack McEneny, a Clinton supporter along with the great majority of other state elected officials, said she has been a good senator who spends much more time in the area than one of her Democratic predecessors, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. McEneny and other local leaders are used to working well with Clinton, he said.
But McEneny also noted that his younger daughter Maeve is one of many young people supporting Obama, and she campaigned for him in New Hampshire. The assemblyman campaigned there for Clinton, at a different time.
McEneny said Clinton will win the New York primary, and either she or Obama would carry New York in the general election. The state normally goes Democratic except when a Republican wins a national landslide.
Clinton will be in New York City the day before Super Tuesday, hosting a 9 p.m. Webcast going out live to 21 Super Tuesday states, her campaign announced.
But the Obama campaign has not written off New York. Advertising Age reported that Obama will air TV ads starting today in the New York City area. Clinton also has bought time for TV ads.
It is too late to take Giuliani’s name off the primary ballot, said Lee Daghlian, spokesman for the state Board of Elections. The other GOP candidates on the ballot are still in the race: McCain, Romney, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul. Last week, the board removed three others: Fred Thompson, Duncan Hunter and Alan Keyes.
Daghlian said Democratic rules make it harder to pull candidates off the ballot, meaning six will be listed. Of those six, only Clinton and Obama are still running for president.
“I’m standing on the quarterdeck welcoming people aboard,” said Chris Callaghan, a McCain delegate of his fellow Republicans now backing his candidate. Callaghan last week opened a McCain regional office at 25 Broad St. in his hometown of Waterford. He said there are no land lines installed in the storefront, so the McCain supporters are relying on cell phones.
Callaghan said he is seriously considering a congressional run this year for the seat being vacated by Rep. Mike McNulty, D-Green island. Another potential Republican candidate, Warren Redlich, who ran previously against McNulty and thought about running in 2008, said he has decided against it.
Schenectady County Republican Chairman Thomas Buchanan, a Giuliani delegate, said he had wanted to back McCain last week, but was dissuaded by Tedisco.
Tedisco said it was only fair to Giuliani to wait until after the Florida vote. He said it had long been clear that if the Giuliani candidacy didn’t fly, then New York Republican leaders would support McCain.
Tedisco said McCain has the right policies on issues such as fighting terrorism and controlling spending, and has moved toward the right position on immigration.
Callaghan said of McCain: “In spite of what Rush Limbaugh says, he is conservative,” citing the senator’s positions on social issues, national defense and spending.
“The immigration problem needs to be solved,” Callaghan said, and McCain “is willing to look for solutions.”
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