NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Saturday, September 24, 2016, 4:00 AM
Rick Lazio, whose senatorial hopes were dashed when he waltzed up to opponent Hillary Clinton during their 2000 debate, has a tip for her new rival: Learn from my mistake.
Lazio — the Republican who began slipping in New York’s 2000 U.S. Senate race after he brazenly approached Clinton mid-debate in a bid to force her to sign a campaign finance pledge — urged Donald Trump not to move on Monday night’s presidential debate stage.
“My advice? Stay at the podium!” the former U.S. congressman from Long Island told the Daily News in an email Friday.
Lazio and Clinton were neck-and-neck in the polls when they met for their first debate on Sept. 13, 2000.
Former U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio’s high-profile 2000 gambit did not pay off.
The two were discussing soft money — unregulated political funding — when Lazio abruptly pulled a piece of paper from his jacket and declared it was a pledge to reject all soft-money donations. Lazio left his podium, walked over to Clinton’s, and demanded her signature.
“I’m asking you to sign it,” he said. “Sign it right now.”
Clinton offered to shake Lazio’s hand as he continued to hound her for a signature. After the debate, Clinton’s campaign claimed the dramatic move was sexist bullying — and pundits soon called Lazio out for being too aggressive and unprofessional.
Lazio encouraged Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to stay behind the podium during Monday’s debate.
That November, Clinton won the race with a healthy 55%.
Sixteen years after the debate stage dance, Lazio encouraged Clinton’s presidential opponent to keep his message positive and stay subtle.
“Don’t go for the knockout punch,” he told The News. “Rather, amplify the negatives she already has … distinguish yourself as the change agent and Hillary as more of the failed and uninspiring status quo.”
Clinton went on to win the 2000 Senate race with 55% of the vote.
But don’t mistake Lazio’s debate tips as a Trump endorsement.
“Neither major party candidate has earned my support,” he said.
The first of three presidential debates between Trump and Clinton is set for 9 p.m. Monday.