Clinton, Giuliani put 2008 U.S. presidential race in a New York state

In a political universe unaccustomed to single-name celebrities there are "Hillary" and "Rudy."

Democratic Sen. &to=' target=_blank>Hillary Rodham Clinton is the only former first lady ever elected to public office. Republican Rudolph Giuliani is the man dubbed "America's Mayor" for his leadership after terrorists struck his city, New York, on Sept. 11, 2001.

The two lead party rivals in polling for the far-off White House race in 2008, a potential blockbuster matchup that promises all the political buzz and tabloid hype that only Hillary versus Rudy could deliver. Neither has committed publicly to running.

"They transcend the swamp of New York politics," said Republican strategist Nelson Warfield. "Because of their celebrity, Clinton and Giuliani are able to rise above the mire that soils so many other New York politicians."

Clinton says her sole focus is winning a second Senate term in 2006. Still, the silence about 2008 has failed to quiet the speculation.

Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo _ himself mentioned as a presidential contender in 1988 and 1992 _ says neither Clinton, who grew up in suburban Chicago, nor Giuliani, a Brooklyn native, is a typical New York politician.

"If you were Merlin and you had taken a young boy with a fragile build and dipped him into the cauldron of boiling juices from lizards' insides and produced a knight with the biggest, broadest sword ever seen, you wouldn't have a better miracle than Giuliani produced by 9-11," Cuomo said.

"I wish I could say he was the product of a developed politics here that is so strong, but he wasn't," Cuomo said. "And, neither was Hillary. Hillary was an import from Washington who chose, to our benefit, to come to New York. Yeah, they are New Yorkers now and very much so, but not a product of &to=' target=_blank>New York politics."

New York has not had one of its own elected president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt won a fourth term in 1944. Since then, several New Yorkers _ almost all of them Republicans _ have come close to the Oval Office or earned a spot on a national ticket.

Gov. Thomas Dewey, who lost to Roosevelt in 1944, finished a close second to President Harry Truman in 1948. William E. Miller, a New York congressman, was Barry Goldwater's running mate in 1964. Former Gov. Nelson Rockefeller was appointed vice president during Gerald Ford's administration in the 1970s. Jack Kemp, a congressman and then housing secretary for the first President George Bush, was on the unsuccessful 1996 Republican ticket as Bob Dole's running mate.

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