Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand may have a serious problem on her hands if Rudy Giuliani gets in next year's race for the U.S. Senate in New York State.
A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of voters in the state finds Giuliani, the former Republican mayor of New York City, leading Gillibrand by 13 point, 53 percent to 40 percent. Four percent like some other candidate, and just two percent are undecided.
News reports that Giuliani has ruled out a run for governor next year and is interested In the Senate race could turn Gillibrand's bid to fill out the rest of Hillary Clinton's term from a close struggle to an uphill climb.
Just last week a Rasmussen Reports survey in the Empire State found Gillibrand leading former GOP Governor George Pataki in a hypothetical 2010 match-up by just three points 45 percent to 42 percent. But Pataki, too, was not an announced candidate and was only rumored to be interested in the race.
Giuliani leads among male voters by 28 points and breaks almost even among women. He also picks up 35 percent of the Democratic vote and carries voters not affiliated with either major party by more than two-to-one.
Sixty-three percent (63 percent) of New York voters have a favorable opinion of Giuliani, who became known as "America's Mayor" for rallying New York City in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Twenty-nine percent (29 percent) have a very favorable opinion of him. Just 33 percent view Giuliani unfavorably, including 20 percent with a very unfavorable opinion.
Giuliani may be getting a short-term boost from an Obama Administration decision that draws attention back to one of Giuliani's finest hours. Fifty-five percent (55 percent) of New York State voters oppose U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to try the confessed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and five other suspected terrorists in a civilian court in New York City rather than before a military tribunal.
Gillibrand, a congresswoman named to the Senate in January by Governor David Paterson when Clinton resigned to become secretary of State, is viewed favorably by 46 percent, with 13 percent very favorable toward her. Forty-one percent (41 percent) have an unfavorable opinion of the senator, including 13 percent who view her very unfavorably.
Paterson's decision to pick Gillibrand followed his controversial mishandling of Caroline Kennedy's interest in the job, and Gillibrand's selection was coolly received by liberals in her own party. She was named to the seat until a special election can be held next November to fill out the remaining two years of Clinton's six-year term. At least two liberal Democratic Congress members initially threatened to challenge her but then opted not to run.
Giuliani, an unsuccessful candidate for last year's Republican presidential nomination, initially ran against Clinton for the Senate in 2000 but withdrew from the race when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was mayor of New York from 1994 to 2001 and has frequently been mentioned as a possible candidate for statewide office since then.
Paterson is expected to be challenged for next year's Democratic gubernatorial nomination by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Just last week, a Rasmussen Reports survey in the state showed Cuomo easily beating Paterson but virtually tied with Giuliani in the governor's race.
But shortly after that, Giuliani made it clear though aides that he is not interested in the governorship.
Like many other states, New York is beset with budget problems, and 56% of New York voters say it is at least somewhat likely that the state will be bankrupt by the end of the year.
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This statewide telephone survey of 500 Likely Voters in New York was conducted by Rasmussen Reports November 23, 2009. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 4.5 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence (see methodology).
Rasmussen Reports is an electronic publishing firm specializing in the collection, publication, and distribution of public opinion polling information.
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