Putting aside the question of whether Hillary Clinton's chances were improved by Rudolph Giuliani's withdrawal from the New York Senate race, Republican Representative Rick Lazio's decision to parachute into the contest has a potential silver lining for Democrats: Lazio won't be seeking another term in the lower chamber. That improves Democrats' chances of retaking the House. Some House Democrats are confident Lazio's seat could turn out to be one of the six pickups they need to regain control.
New York's second district (in the western half of Suffolk County) is less affluent than other parts of Long Island and less Republican than Lazio's three comfortable re-elections would imply. The seat used to belong to liberal Democrat Tom Downey before Lazio swiped it from him in 1992. And Bill Clinton beat Bob Dole there by 20 points in 1996. The second district is just the kind of northeastern, moderate, suburban district that's been tilting Democratic over the course of the 1990s. For the upcoming House race, both parties are scrambling to unite behind a standard bearer. "It's the kind of district where the caliber of the candidates will make or break this race," says one veteran House watcher. "Republicans have a slight natural advantage. But the Democrats have a great opportunity for a pickup."