Take That, Hillary! Opponent Hauls in Cash

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What was the hottest topic on the floor of the GOP convention? I was there, and I can give you a hint: It wasn't Colin Powell's looming Cabinet appointment, or George P. Bush's dashing good looks. It wasn't even the dizzying prospect of kicking Al Gore's rump right back to Tennessee.

Everyone in Philadelphia was talking about the U.S. Senate race in New York.

The country, as it turns out, is teeming — from New Jersey to Texas to Idaho — with Republicans who really, really don't like Hillary Clinton. And even though her challenger, Rick Lazio, hasn't exactly attacked the race with all guns blazing — preferring to leave his own image fairly blurry around the edges — he has nonetheless managed to capitalize nicely on the Hillary antipathy, attracting national attention and a war chest most candidates would kill for.

In fact, in the four months since he took over the spot abandoned by ailing New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, the baby-faced congressman has outperformed Clinton in fund-raising by a margin of 3 to 1, collecting nearly $11 million over the past seven weeks, according to the New York Times. Clinton raked in about $3.5 million during the same time period — and it's testimony to these campaigns' stratospheric finances that such a gigantic number sounds slightly pathetic.

This is New York, of course, where just about everything is bigger, louder and faster (at least in the state's southeast corner). The Empire State's U.S. Senate races have always commanded more fanfare and more money than in almost any other. And this year, that age-old trend has been ratcheted up to the nth degree. It's not just the enormity of the contributions; it's the scale of the whole race: As if a statewide campaign is being fought on a national canvas and no one seems to think it's the slightest bit strange. In fact, every costly ad blitz seems to incite more vociferous support.

But maybe we shouldn't be surprised. After all, anti-Clinton sentiment (directed at both Hillary and Bill) is alive and well and living in GOP checkbooks, and now that George W. has begun to show signs of weakness, many Republicans may figure Lazio is their last, best chance for revenge against the First Family.