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Hillary vs. Rudy?; Senate race: N.Y. politicos see match made in fund-raising heaven, in their dreams.


IN THIS CORNER, fresh from successfully campaigning against former Sen. Al D'Amato on behalf of Rep. (now Sen.) Charles Schumer -- Hillary Rodham Clinton.

And in the other corner, New York City's most popular mayor -- at least in suburbia. He's the fighting U.S. attorney; the snarling champion of civility -- Rudolph W. Giuliani, unbeaten at home.

Mayor Giuliani, ineligible for re-election in 2001, has three fund-raising committees going full blast. President, vice president, governor, senator -- you name it, he's exploring it. Mr. Giuliani is not a lock to win the Republican nomination to succeed the retiring Democrat, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, but you would not want to be standing in his way.

Enter Mrs. Clinton. This is not her idea. Hapless New York Democrats are desperate. They are practically drafting Mrs. Clinton to run for Mr. Moynihan's Senate seat.

In the words of Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., "Politically, we have pulled together an offer that the First Lady can't refuse."

The catch is that since Greater New York was founded a century ago, no mayor has gone to higher elective office. It's the end of the line. A second great tradition is that the Empire State is not big enough to hold a governor and a mayor of the same party. They will spend their last bullet shooting each other down, as the GOP's Mr. Giuliani and Gov. George E. Pataki, with ambitions of his own, are now doing.

As for Mrs. Clinton, breadwinner to a family deep in legal debts, the Senate salary must be a downer. Running in a state famous for negative campaigning would bring Whitewater, Travelgate and Filegate back for scrutiny. Who needs it?

So, as much as the media, pols and fund-raisers crave a Giuliani-Clinton slugfest, it is not guaranteed to occur. Would you believe a 2000 Senate race between the likes of Rep. Nita M. Lowey, a Westchester County Democrat, and Rep. Rick A. Lazio, a Suffolk County Republican, both of whom really want the seat? Bummer.

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