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Rudy in the race Six months before the parties start voting on candidates, New York City's former mayor is becoming a leading contender

With the longest presidential campaign in history already under way, candidates from New York are off to strong starts. This state's junior senator, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, is -- unsurprisingly -- the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, but another New Yorker has emerged as a strong contender for the Republican line. For some national perspective on our "local" race, The Buffalo News turned to two veteran West Coast political experts to handicap the burgeoning campaign of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Patrick Reddy, an occasional contributor to Viewpoints, grew up in the New York City area and now is a veteran Democratic consultant in California. Tony Quinn is co-editor of the California Target Book, a nonpartisan analysis of legislative and congressional elections. He has a long history of involvement in California politics and was policy director of the California Assembly Republican Caucus.

In an overview of the early presidential campaign field published here earlier this year, Reddy wrote that the 2008 election would likely be a contest between the public's desire for change, which would provide a strong tail-wind for Democrats, and the popularity of individual Republicans like John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. Since Sept. 11, 2001, polls consistently have shown Giuliani to be among the most respected Americans. And since 2004, he has been much more popular than the Republican Party's current leader, George W. Bush.

Here's a look at Giuliani's chances and possible strategies leading into next year's primaries, from insiders on both sides of the political aisle.

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