Not long ago, Ed Cox, the Manhattan attorney, was swatting down any talk of calling it quits, brushing aside questions about whether he could win the GOP nod to take on Hillary Clinton for Senate next year. Just two weeks ago, he vowed to stay in the fight, saying he’d make his Senate candidacy official as early as Thanksgiving.
All that changed on Friday afternoon, when Governor George Pataki announced that he would be backing Cox’s chief primary rival, Jeanine Pirro, the Westchester district attorney. At a press event in Manhattan —staged on the day the New York Times published its second article in a week on the Pirro campaign’s disarray–the governor told reporters, “I know Jeanine Pirro to be a tough, hard-charging district attorney and former judge who has made protecting our children and families her top priority.” He went on to describe Pirro as a “New Yorker at heart,” perhaps playing up the differences between Pirro and the junior senator.
“I am proud to support her,” Pataki said, “and know that she will make a great United States senator for all New Yorkers.”
The endorsement dealt a heavy blow to Cox, who had begun gaining momentum after Pirro’s gaffe-marred kick-off in August. Pirro was still viewed as the front-runner—she was pegged as the best GOP Senate hopeful by Republican State Party chairman Stephen Minarik. But when Pataki–the New York GOP, for all intents and purposes–gave his blessing to Pirro, it made Cox’s chances at garnering party support and raising money all the more difficult.
Within an hour of Pataki’s move, in fact, Cox had departed from his campaign. He put out a statement saying simply, “The Governor is the leader of the Republican Party. Out of respect for his position and his decision, I have decided to stop my campaigning for the United States Senate.”
Has the party’s chief made the right decision? Will the floundering Pirro rebound, and go on to wage a credible campaign? Certainly, Cox supporters would say the more qualified candidate–the one experienced enough not just to survive on the stump but to hold federal office–has just left the building.
The Pirro campaign, for its part, had this to say: “Ed Cox is a man of integrity who has shown great leadership in his run for the United States Senate. He will continue to be a rising star in the Republican Party.”