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MOVE OVER, 'PRIMARY COLORS'

If Hollywood turns a profit with the new movie "Primary Colors," a drama with heavy echoes from Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, it might want to explore the possibilities in another hot political drama.

That's the emerging saga of Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey Ross, who just announced her intention to run for governor of New York.

How it will all turn out isn't yet clear. But the roots of an engaging plot that is stranger than fiction are surely there.

The Hollywood version could begin with an attractive and bright, but unknown, woman plucked from a politically oriented Manhattan think tank to run for lieutenant governor. She's a policy wonk who appears to have mastered the tortured, flawed details of national health insurance.

At the head of the ticket is another fresh face, a small-town mayor turned state legislator plucked from obscurity on the Hudson. Cut to scenes of a powerful U.S. senator engineering the plucking.

As the drama skips briskly along, the newly forged ticket-mates win a stunning upset, unseating a powerful incumbent governor of the state's majority party. Victory is as sweet as it is unexpected.

But then, alas, divisions open. Personal and political relations between the ticket-mates sour. Cut to scenes of the powerful U.S. senator fuming that think tanks make women forget how to show respect.

The bright, plucky lieutenant governor is shunted aside and refuses to go quietly. Not only does she stay on the job, but she stuns everyone by enrolling in the opposing political party. And then -- can you believe it? -- she announces that she will challenge her old ally, the governor, when he runs for re-election.

Despite doubts in her new party ("Hey, that wasn't our kind of think tank, was it?") she catches the fancy of enough of its leaders and . . . . Here's where Hollywood will have to start inventing without the help of history.

Maybe she wins the gubernatorial primary and the old ticket mates trade he said/she saids through a fall campaign. Maybe he wins and she, sadder but wiser, decides to rebuild her political base by starting out as a mayor in a small Hudson town. Maybe she wins and he, sadder but wiser, takes refuge in a think tank.

It all happens so fast it could easily be wrapped into a two-hour show. And with little time for cinematic boredom.

There might be casting problems. John Travolta or Emma Thompson might be unavailable. And think of the difficulty in finding a character actor to play the challenging role of that powerful U.S. senator.

But where else can you find such a great story line? Maybe the film could be titled "Only in New York."

The toughest problem for Hollywood would be a certain lack of believability -- a fear that it all might seem too far-fetched. But the script could have the lieutenant governor character say straight out, as the real Betsy McCaughey Ross did the other day in announcing her candidacy, that she has "redefined the job of lieutenant governor."

Who possibly could doubt that?

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