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Early primary viewed as a mixed blessing in New York Feb. 5. date benefits Clinton, Giuliani, but state gets lost in crowd

New York State will hold its 2008 presidential primary on what's shaping up as a "Super Duper Tuesday" next Feb. 5 a move that could provide a big boost to the campaign's New York-based front-runners, Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Rodham Clinton, while prompting other contenders to shun the state.

That's the consensus among political pros following Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer's decision Monday to sign a bill moving up the primary date by four weeks.

The move means New York voters will cast their ballots a mere 22 days after Iowa caucus-goers select the first convention delegates.

Moreover, New Yorkers will go to the polls the same day as primary voters in California, New Jersey, Missouri and six smaller states. Several other major states, including Pennsylvania, Florida and Texas, also might hold their primaries that day.

All that early action means the candidates who currently top the national polls -- Giuliani, the Republican former mayor of New York City, and Clinton, the state's junior Democratic senator -- will probably remain in the hunt when New Yorkers vote.

And that means other candidates will probably concentrate their efforts and resources elsewhere, said James E. Campbell, chairman of the department of political science at the University at Buffalo.

"This pretty much sews up the state for Rudy and Hillary," Campbell said. "In a way, it takes New York out of the mix this time."

It was intended to do just the opposite.

"Moving the primary date to February, we will help secure New York's large and diverse population an influential voice in selecting the 2008 presidential nominees," Spitzer said.

Giuliani supporters began the push to move up the New York primary, and Clinton quickly signed on, prompting broad bipartisan support for the move when the State Legislature approved it last month.

Looking at the polls, it's easy to see why Giuliani and Clinton might want New Yorkers to vote early.

Giuliani currently wins the support of 52 percent of Republicans in New York State, according to a poll released last week by Quinnipiac University. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., ranks second, with 13 percent.
On the Democratic side, Clinton topped the Quinnipiac poll with the backing of 44 percent of registered
Democrats. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and former Vice President Al Gore finished second; each garnered 14 percent. Gore is not an announced candidate.

Seeing those numbers, Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said he doubted that other candidates would bother to contest the New York primary though all the candidates will troll the state for campaign cash.

Iowa opens the presidential balloting with caucuses Jan. 14 and will be quickly followed by the Nevada caucus Jan. 19, the kickoff primary in New Hampshire on Jan. 22 and the South Carolina primary on Jan. 29.

If one candidate in each party sweeps each of those contests, Super-Duper Tuesday and the New York primary could simply be a delegate-rich confirmation of the inevitable.

"It's entirely possible that the first four or five states will determine the nominees," said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

If that doesn't happen, Feb. 5 will loom as the most important day in the primary calendar.

"It's settled if someone runs the house that day," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

The trouble is, New York and plenty of other states -- might get lost in the shuffle.

"With all these states rushing to put their primaries on the same day, it nearly guarantees that no state -- not even California -- will get national attention," Sabato said.

And while a quick rush to judgment might sit well with the front-runners, one potential late entrant in the race -- former New York Gov. George E. Pataki -- isn't entirely thrilled with the new date of the New York primary.

"It's great having New York be relevant, but what I do have concerns about is when you have a dozen states or more doing it at the same time," Pataki, a Republican, told the Associated Press. "The idea of a primary season where you have to go from state to state or region to region and respond to what has happened in earlier states is of value. Having a truncated primary process overall is a negative thing."


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