Former Mass. Gov. Weld to battle for top NY job
By Ellen Wulfhorst
Friday, August 19, 2005; 5:28 PM
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former Gov. William Weld of Massachusetts is eyeing the governor's job in neighboring New York, where experts say he faces a longshot battle against heavily favored Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
Weld, a Republican and native New Yorker who moved back in 2000 to work as an investment advisor, said in a New York Times interview published on Friday he wants to return to public service, saying, "My juices are really flowing for this race."
Weld, who left office in Massachusetts in 1997, is considered moderate, likable and adept at fund-raising, all assets he would need to face Spitzer in a state where Democrats heavily outnumber Republicans.
Spitzer has made a national name for himself busting white-collar crime on Wall Street. He is considered the strong front-runner to succeed Republican Gov. George Pataki, who recently said he would not seek a fourth term as he eyes a possible White House run.
"Weld's problem really is that Eliot Spitzer is such a substantial figure in job performance, favorable rating, name recognition, and he's raised so much money," said political strategist Joseph Mercurio.
"He has to raise a lot more money than Spitzer because Spitzer goes in with so much more going for him," Mercurio said. "Weld is a pretty good pick, but it's hard to visualize anybody going against Spitzer at this point."
A poll taken in May by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute showed Spitzer bashing Weld 60 to 16 percent in a hypothetical matchup for next year's gubernatorial race if both won their respective party's nomination.
Weld built a reputation as a social moderate but fiscally conservative politician in Massachusetts, where he also entertained voters with playful antics like quoting Grateful Dead lyrics and jumping fully clothed into the Charles River.
He served seven years in the state's top job, leaving in 1997 when President Bill Clinton chose him as ambassador to Mexico -- a nomination that failed, largely due to opposition from Sen. Jesse Helms that he was too liberal.
"A Weld candidacy would be good for the Republican Party and good for the voters of the state of New York," said Douglas Muzzio, a professor of public affairs at the City University of New York. "Bill Weld is a substantial public figure. He's got an offbeat enough personality. He is a serious contender."
He's also got serious problems, added Democratic political strategist Hank Sheinkopf.
"Republicans are in deep trouble, so much so they had to reach to find somebody to run against potentially Spitzer with the sole ability to raise money and be a good debater, which he can do," said Sheinkopf. "They have no home-grown candidates. It's going to cost them tens of millions to begin to create a persona for Weld, and the only way to do that is television."
Besides, Sheinkopf added, it may boil down to one key facet of life in America -- baseball.
"Are New Yorkers who have a traditional rivalry with Boston and Massachusetts, because of the Red Sox vs. the Yankees, going to accept a guy from a state they don't particularly like?" he asked. "They have an extraordinary amount of work to do in what will be a very expensive race if they have any hope at all of being successful."
Granted the mayor of New York City is a Massachusetts native and a Republican but, pundits note, Michael Bloomberg's personal fortune and ability to spend $74 million of his own money on his first campaign may have tipped the scales in his favor.
"Weld has the ingredients of what the Republicans need to do to win statewide, but that doesn't mean he can pull it off," said political pollster Lee Miringoff.
So, seeing that he was gov't a mass for a while, how much of a rino is he?
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