After their first face-off in the New York Senate race last week, Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio left the stage without shaking hands. Lazio hugged his wife, then dashed to the press room to schmooze with reporters. The First Lady posed for photos with moderator Tim Russert, then ducked backstage to take a call from her husband, who had watched the debate at the White House via satellite. Both camps quickly declared victory. Hillary's spinmeisters said she was "composed and charismatic" under fire. Team Lazio defended his bellicose style and claimed he'd closed the stature gap.

Privately, Hillary's aides admitted they hadn't expected Lazio to come on so strong. But his aggressiveness may have backfired, particularly with women and independents. In the campaign's postdebate polling, her aides said viewers described Hillary as "confident" and "senatorial," and found Lazio "defensive" and a "bully." (That's just "wishful thinking," countered a Lazio aide, who said their polling showed no shift to Hillary. "If anything, we upticked.") Clinton's roughest moment may, ironically, have been a boon. Asked by Russert if she owed the country an apology for denying her husband's sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, Mrs. Clinton looked shaken and spoke haltingly. Viewers, especially women, felt her pain. "Russert did her a huge favor," said a Hillary confidante. Lazio's closing stunt didn't play well, either, said Hillary's aides. Striding over to Mrs. Clinton's lectern, he pressured her to sign a no-soft-money pledge. Women were offended that he "invaded her space," her aides said. By the end of the week, polls showed Hillary marginally ahead. But this week's headlines may not help: independent counsel Robert Ray is expected to issue his final Whitewater report.

Debra Rosenberg
WASHINGTON, D.C.Monuments Sprawl on the Mall Given plans to memorialize Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan and all World War II veterans, the expansive National Mall could soon be little more than one-stop shopping for history-class field trips. Although opponents of the controversial WWII memorial are prepared to sue, plans to replace the Rainbow Pool with a bevy of stone pillars will likely receive final approval Sept. 21. "We're paving over history for more history," says a rep for one anti-monument group. Meanwhile, there are preliminary designs for an MLK monument on the Mall, and a congressional bill calling for a Reagan memorial would also gut existing regulations protecting the open space. Is it time to build a monument for the disappearing Mall?

THE BUZZ Hi, Is Someone Who Has an Opinion Home? In 1932 George Gallup used new survey methods to predict that voters would elect his mother-in-law Iowa's state secretary. No one noticed--until she won. That was then. Here's what people are saying about polling in the papers, over the airwaves and on the Web:

Poll Tricks 'We are just awash in surveys.' (Norman Ornstein, USA Today) But 'consider a poll like tracking a diet on a scale--like scales, you can't jump from poll to poll and be sure a trend is real.' (New York Post)

Don't Jump National polls miss the state-by-state races that really pick the winner. You need 270 electoral votes to win. Bush, Gore each have 242. (The Hotline)

God Knows 'If it sounds wrong to you, boy, it may just be.' (Morin, NPR) Interviewees manipulate pollsters' questions and Gore could lose votes due to hidden anti-Semitism. Oy, survey!

Blame the Net! 'To meet the frenzied demands for content, polls have been downsized ... These tiny samples come with correspondingly larger margins of sampling error.' (Richard Morin, Wash. Post) 'Which polls, if any, should you trust?' (National Public Radio)


LAST WEEK'S LIVE VOTE Would you buy Firestone tires again? (3,586 responses)

31% No, I would never feel safe in my car.

34%No, even if its safety record dramatically improves, I wouldn't support the company.

19% Maybe, but not for several years.

16% Yes, they're bound to be very careful from now on.

E-PUBLISHING Growing Pains Contrary to rumor, Stephen King is not uprooting "The Plant," his dollar-a-chapter, "honor system" experiment in Web-based publishing. Downloads of installment No. 2 are running at a decent clip and payment levels are high enough to keep King at the keyboard. Some snags: readers think paying once entitles them to multiple downloads and need reminding when a new installment is available. (The next one goes up Sept. 25.)

CRISIS MANAGEMENT This Time With Feeling, Please! Just because you're top dog doesn't mean you're skilled in the subtle art of saying sorry. PERI asked experts to review the attempts made in recent consumer-confidence commercials:

CEO/ISSUE: Bill Gates; government's antitrust suit against the company

DOES IT DO THE JOB? Public wrong target audience. What consumer asks for the Linux OS? Should have addressed MS employees, judges.

CEO/ISSUE: Tobacco settlement agreement with state attorneys general

DOES IT DO THE JOB? 'Give me a break,' says expert Steven Fink. If they said nicotine wasn't addictive, why now believe 'Things are changing'?

CEO/ISSUE: Jacques Nasser; recall on Firestone tires (used on Explorers)

DOES IT DO THE JOB? 'Little late,' says expert Larry Smith. 'There are a couple of people that say his Down Under accent hurts him. I don't think so.'

CEO/ISSUE: Jim Goodwin, chair.; canceled flights, delays this summer

DOES IT DO THE JOB? Ad was 'sincere,' says Fink; took right approach by not deflecting blame, pointing a finger at pilots who wouldn't fly planes

CLEANING Smell of $$ Not that you do the cleaning yourself if you can afford $12 dishwashing liquid. No matter. Caldrea has introduced a new line of high-end cleaning products available in "energetic," "sensuous" or "relaxing" scents. And the Energetic Citrus Mint Ylang Ylang window spray can take care of any smelly window problem.

EXHIBITIONS Refugee Camps Without Borders Most of us will never have to see the inside of a refugee camp. For the international aid network Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), that's not necessarily a good thing. They've constructed an "exhibit" of a refugee camp in New York City's Central Park to build awareness of the brutal lives of the world's 39 million displaced people. Visitors will have the chance to view the baked-wheat bar--with its instructions to "eat slowly and chew well"--that keeps starving children alive. "We don't want to shock, but we cannot help people if we say nothing," says Alain Fredaigue, of MSF. The exhibit will travel to Los Angeles next month.

HORSE RACE There's No Masking the Truth While Al Gore leads in national polls, he's trailing in another kind of historical survey: sales of Cesar Group's masks have predicted the victor since Nixon.

CONTESTS Hands Down Jesus day isn't the only new Texas holiday. This week in Longview, Texas, Sept. 19 will be declared Hands on a Hardbody Day as the eponymous contest gets underway at Joe Mallard Nissan. For eight years, folks have been vying for a new pickup by keeping one hand on the prize truck. Last one standing wins. A 1998 documentary of the same name captured the often 100-hour human drama of becoming delirious and swollen for a truck. New this year are Port-o-Potties, a bigger tent and bleachers. Who thought of such an idea? "An idiot, obviously," says organizer Jan Maynard.

TRANSITION Blow the Blues Jazz so lionizes its rebel angels that a red-beans-and-rice earthling like Stanley Turrentine can get taken for granted. He played burly-tone tenor saxophone on soulful organ-guitar-combo records before his hit 1970 pop-jazz album, "Sugar," featuring George Benson. He breathed the blues, he moved a million hearts--and 10 million toes.

David Gates

CONVENTIONAL WISDOMOn Tape From Sydney Edition

Gore + Top three reasons for good week: wins debate debate, boffo on Letterman and Oprah. Bush - Still off message as media smells a RAT. And "subliminable" fuels bogus dyslexia boomlet. Reno - Old: Negligent on Chinese espionage. New: Caved to Congress and NYT witch hunt. NBC - All-tape-all-the-time policy kills whatever drama is left in overproduced Olympics. Hillary = Looked senatorial, plus Russert ambush on Zippergate made her sympathetic. Lazio = Comes off as credible candidate, but over- caffeinated and gravitas-challenged. Down, boy!

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