Giuliani, Lazio take the stage

N.Y. mayor talks about upcoming race, Clinton

PHILADELPHIA — New York senatorial hopeful Rick Lazio and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani staged a love fest Tuesday afternoon, turning one of the nation’s most hotly contested and highly publicized congressional battles — Lazio vs. first lady Hillary Clinton — into a sideshow at the Republican National Convention here in Philadelphia.

Giuliani is “perhaps the greatest mayor the city of New York has ever seen,” Lazio gushed at a press conference in one of the four giant media pavilions that flank the convention center.

There are, however, no plans for Lazio to take the convention floor this week. He said he’s too busy with the New York race, but others think George W. Bush & Co. didn’t want any distractions during these precious days in the limelight.

Brief appearance

Joking about his brief appearance at the convention, Long Island-born and bred Lazio said, “I’ve been here one day, probably longer than Hillary Clinton has been in New York.”

“We need to have a U.S. senator who understands New York City and New York state to represent us credibly,” Giuliani said.

The mayor was the one running against Clinton until last spring, when prostate cancer and marital discord derailed his candidacy. “He’s doing a lot better than I was doing” in the race, Giuliani added ruefully of Lazio.

Lazio predicted a big victory in November. He held a solo press meet earlier in the day where he blasted his opponent. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be lectured at for the next six years by Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Both Lazio and Giuliani strongly support Bush and the end of the Clinton-Gore era. Giuliani criticized Clinton on foreign policy and the military and insisted the U.S. needs to be “rebuilt.”

Targeting the prez

Not that these jibes are surprising. It’s the Republicans’ show after all, and party faithful of all stripes are taking advantage of microphones and a supportive audience to jab at President Clinton.

The GOP has peopled its convention stage with blacks, Hispanics and women (even a single mom) in an aggressive showcase of diversity. It’s a sharp contrast with the folks offstage and on the floor, where the color is almost wholly white.

Arizona’s Jim Kolbe, the only openly gay Republican to address a GOP convention, will speak Tuesday night.

Bob and Elizabeth Dole, Sen. John McCain, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Theodore Roosevelt IV and “NYPD Blue” star Rick Schroder are also part of the lineup, which is dedicated to “Strength and Security With a Purpose: Safe in Our Homes and in the World.”