Mort Zuckerman Welcome to Run for GOP Senate Nod: State Chair

Several local chairmen of the state Republican Party got together last night and endorsed Bruce Blakeman for the 2010 Senate race. But the state chairman, Ed Cox, says the party is still open to other contenders -- including Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman.

Zuckerman is "very concerned about the direction this country is going," says Cox. "... I think he'd make a tremendous candidate... I would encourage him as I would encourage some other very good candidates to run on the Republican side for the U.S. Senate."

As Wayne Barrett noticed earlier, the Times and the Post, perhaps nudged by the Bloomberg apparatus, seem to be paving the way for a Zuckerman run. Now the state GOP chairman is helping it along.

Zuckerman certainly has more name recognition than Blakeman, the former majority leader of the Nassau County Legislature who announced a month ago. Both men are financially well-off, but Blakeman doesn't own a major newspaper. And though both men have powerful friends, Zuckerman, as Tom Robbins reminisced, gets a lot more out of his.

The presumed Democratic candidate, Kirsten Gillibrand, is soundly beating Blakeman in recent polls.

But she has been shown to run behind George Pataki, the former governor who has not shown any interest in the race, yet keeps getting brought up in the GOP-friendly press as a challenger, usually with a Evan-Bayh-Bowing-Out-Means-GOP-Takeover angle.

It's as if, having been denied the Giuliani candidacy they craved, Republicans and the reporters who love them are going in for wish fulfillment, and looking for the Magic Man who will make their story lines about the Democratic collapse more plausible than the actual candidates who have come forward. (Blakeman has been pushing a right-wing populist line of late, but not even a pickup truck can turn the connected lawyer, with his curious celebrity connection, into Scott Brown.)

Maybe Cox hopes for a celebrity-rich free-for-all in the primaries that would bring glamour and attention to the party. There is already talk of pitting TV analyst Larry Kudlow against Chuck Schumer. Maybe they can get some talk-show hosts to step up, too, as has been done in Arizona, and turn the Republican primaries into a version of American Idol. It beats having a policy argument, certainly -- at least in the ratings.

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