Lazio Not Discouraged by 'Underdog' Status in NY Senate Race

By Bruce Sullivan | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

( - With his US Senate campaign barely 24 hours old, New York Republican Representative Rick Lazio said he was not bothered by the latest poll, which shows him trailing the Democratic candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, by double digits.

"New Yorkers love underdogs," said Lazio Sunday on NBC's Meet The Press. "I was an underdog when I ran for the US House of Representatives back in 1992. I was 20 points down three weeks out," he added.

The latest Zogby International poll, released Sunday for the New York Post and Fox TV5, shows Clinton leading Lazio 45.7 percent to 32.2 percent across New York state, with 17.4 percent of voters undecided. Earlier polls had Clinton tied with New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who withdrew from the race last week saying that he needed to focus on fighting his newly diagnosed prostrate cancer.

"Hillary's role has changed and she is clearly now the front-runner," said pollster Jim Zogby.

However, Lazio was not dismayed by the Zogby poll saying that he is confident that when his fellow New Yorkers across the state get to know him, and hear his message of family values, low taxes, educational and Social Security reform, and a strong environmental commitment they will vote for him in November.

"We're going to talk about hope and opportunity, unifying New York, and bringing people together," said Lazio.

Although Giuliani predicted, after he dropped out of the race, that Lazio will pull even with Clinton within three weeks, due to a huge "anti-Hillary Clinton" sentiment in New York because she only recently became a New Yorker in order to run for the Senate, Lazio said it may take longer.

"I'm expecting that we will be the underdog for some time," said Lazio. But he added that as a native New Yorker he does have an advantage over Clinton, who has been labeled a carpetbagger by some New Yorkers.

"My challenge, I think, is just to get out and tell people about who I am - a family man, a lifelong New Yorker, a guy who married a native New Yorker, Patricia Ann Murphy Moriarity, and has two little girls going to public schools," said Lazio.