Sep 19, 2005



September 19, 2005 -- REPUBLICAN superstar Jeanine Pirro's month-old campaign for Senate election has stumbled badly, has failed to catch on with voters and is having difficulty raising cash, GOP insiders contend.

The Westchester County district attorney, who is seeking the right to challenge U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in next year's balloting, held several tense private meetings with potential backers and contributors in recent days, leaving some convinced her campaign is in trouble.

Pirro conceded to The Post that her gaffe-marred August campaign announcement had created some unexpected problems, but she insisted she had recovered her stride.

"Am I happy with how the announcement went? No. Could it have gone smoother? Absolutely. I'm much better than that," she said. "I'm the one ultimately responsible for my campaign and I am thrilled with the way it is now going."

Pirro contended she "didn't know" how much money her campaign had raised so far. But a leading GOP activist insisted that Pirro "seems to be off stride" and "has been expressing disappointment in how things have been going, including her fund-raising."

Another GOP insider said Pirro "looks strained these days, and she is clearly not happy with the progress of her campaign."

Pirro and campaign strategist Kieran Mahoney held a dinner meeting Thursday night with Conservative Party leader Michael Long, but walked away with no commitment of support.

"Long was not very encouraging about the difficult task she has in front of her," the insider said. "He also told Kieran he thought Jeanine's campaign was launched too soon, that she wasn't ready."

Pirro claimed the dinner went well and insisted that there was "absolutely no truth" to claims that she'd told people she was disappointed with the campaign.

Meanwhile, one of the state's best-known Democratic operatives said Pirro's campaign appeared to be facing "major trouble."

"Where has she been?" asked the operative. "Where are the promised Pataki and Giuliani endorsements? Where are the big fund-raisers?"

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