Image: Jeanine Pirro
Chip East  /  Reuters file
Jeanine Pirro, a district attorney, announced she is ending her campaign against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
updated 12/21/2005 9:47:43 PM ET 2005-12-22T02:47:43

After weeks of pressure from her own party to drop out, Republican Jeanine Pirro abandoned her struggling campaign to unseat Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and announced Wednesday that she will run for New York attorney general instead.

“I have decided that my law enforcement background better qualifies me for a race for New York State attorney general than a race for the United States Senate,” Pirro, the Westchester County district attorney, said in a statement.

With her campaign against Clinton in trouble, Pirro had been under strong pressure from top state GOP leaders to make the switch.

A Democratic strategist said the development could only boost the former first lady’s already solid standing as a potential 2008 presidential contender.

The move leaves Republicans with two active candidates for the Senate nomination: former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, who is not well known statewide, and an even less well known tax attorney from the Catskills region, William Brenner.

Nixon son-in-law may reconsider
Some supporters expect New York City lawyer Edward Cox, a son-in-law of President Nixon, to consider re-entering the Senate race. Cox withdrew in October after Republican Gov. George Pataki endorsed Pirro.

Clinton campaign adviser Howard Wolfson said: “We know at some point the Republicans will sort out this process and choose a nominee.”

Pirro’s campaign had been rocky from the start: During her announcement address, she lost a page from her speech and stood silent for 32 seconds. She had trouble raising money.

And independent polls have shown the former first lady, a potential 2008 presidential contender, with huge leads over Pirro and the other potential GOP challengers. As of the end of September, Clinton had about $14 million in her campaign coffers.

Pirro, a supporter of abortion and gay rights, also had major problems in her attempts to court support from leaders of the state Conservative Party. No Republican running statewide in New York has won without Conservative Party support since 1974.

Polls show Clinton leading presidential field
Hank Sheinkopf, a strategist who worked on former President Clinton’s successful 1996 re-election campaign, said the GOP woes represented a huge boost for the former first lady’s possible run for the White House in 2008. Polls have shown her leading the Democratic field for 2008.

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“It allows the senator to run a campaign that focuses on the kind of constituency she would need to win in a presidential contest — notably white males and Catholics — unfettered by a real Republican challenge,” said Sheinkopf, who is not involved in Sen. Clinton’s campaign.

“The national Republican Party will not be happy at the failure of New York state Republicans to be able to credibly attack the No. 1 enemy of the Republican Party.”

Pirro enters a crowded race for attorney general. Several other Republicans have expressed interest in running, and a half-dozen Democrats, including former federal Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo and former New York City Public Advocate Mark Green, are seeking their party’s nomination.

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, is running for governor. Pataki is not seeking re-election.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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