“These are folks I kind of understand,” Rick Lazio told The Observer, as he greeted commuters waiting for the Long Island Railroad at Penn Station this afternoon, in a last-minute push for votes in what has become a closer than expected Republican primary.
Shortly after his arrival Lazio paused for a moment to take a few questions, telling the press that Republican voters want a “legitimate standard-bearer,”and said it was a “natural thing” for campaigns “to tighten up.”
And then it was back to his people. Mixed in with the usual bemused and skeptical reactions were a few flashes of recognition for the former Long Island congressman.
“You’re from West Islip! We’re from West Islip!” two girls yelled, before excitedly posing for a photo. The moment was also recorded by a campaign tracker in braces and a brown shirt who responded to inquiries by staring straight ahead and not speaking.
Another woman stopped and told Lazio how she worked with him at JP Morgan, in a different department. Another said her husband knows him. There was even a brief “LA-ZI-O!” chant from one passerby.
Two people recognized him as the guy opposing the mosque.
“Why are you so against cultural centers being built at Ground Zero?” asked one Hunter College student who was carrying a large iced coffee drink and declined to give her name.
Lazio said he was not against mosques, and repeated his oft-repeated position that he is focused on “the Imam” and that he is bothered by the possibility of contributions from Iran. “Keep in mind this is not a neighborhood, this is an industrial area,” he said. “I just think the better course is to disclose where this money is coming from.”
“Alright, just wondering,” she said and walked away. “I didn’t want to argue with him because I have a train to catch, but I think it’s all bull.” She added that she was a registered Democrat, and would be voting against him in November. “I think he’s using the mosque just for his own campaign, to try to win.”
“How will you get new jobs?” asked Rhoda Brodsky, who was headed home to Great Neck.
Lazio rattled off what he called “a very precise economic program to create private sector jobs,” and told her to visit his website.
“A friend of mine who is knowledgeable about it said it’s him or that Italian fellow,” she said after he walked away. “Yeah, Paladino. She said, ‘He’s lazy and Paladino is crazy.’ I said, ‘Well, I guess lazy is less dangerous than crazy.’ So I figure I’ll vote for him because I’m a registered Republican.”
Ms. Brodsky added her friend was very involved in the Tea Party movement on Long Island.