NEW YORK – New Yorkers: They're smug, egotistical, and already think they run the country (if not the world). So what's the rest of the nation to do now that three of 'em are mentioned as White House hopefuls, ready to swap Penn Station for Pennsylvania Avenue?
Cringe? Clap? Or just consider somebody else?
"That's pretty sick," said Norm Whipple, 59, of Los Angeles, offering a wry grin about the presidential prospects of Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, Republican Rudy Giuliani and unaffiliated New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "Someone has to keep an eye on those New Yorkers."
The specter of an all-New York November 2008 was raised when Bloomberg, a titular Republican since his 2001 mayoral run, announced last week that he was quitting the GOP to become an independent. His predecessor, Giuliani, is running for the Republican nomination for president, while second-term New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is among the Democratic hopefuls.
While New Yorkers are all too aware of the differences between the Big Apple's big three, folks beyond the Hudson River were not as certain.
"I think basically they are the same candidate," said Bob House, a Republican from Des Moines, Iowa. "We all love New York. But when our options are New York, New York, New York, I think people want to see a different life experience."
Angeles Perry, 65, feeding the slot machines in Las Vegas, saw more similarities than differences among the New York triumvirate.
"They have the money," said the retiree from California's Silicon Valley. "And they all have big egos."
Billionaire Bloomberg spent more than $155 million for his two mayoral campaigns, and reports indicated he could drop $500 million on a presidential campaign -- despite his repeated and coy refusals to announce a candidacy.
Giuliani and Clinton have millions of dollars on hand. None shrinks from the national spotlight, although it's shone a little brighter on some than others.
"I know nothing about Bloomberg," said Belinda Abelar, 51, a nurse from Los Angeles. "Can you tell me something?"
Although the nation's most populous city is regarded by many -- including its residents -- as the nation's financial, fashion and cultural capital, it has rarely served as a catapult to the White House. Mayor John V. Lindsay's Democratic presidential bid in 1972 was the most recent failure.
Statewide office offered little promise, either: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, elected in 1932, was the last governor elected president. Oft-mentioned Mario Cuomo, a Democrat, never mounted a campaign, and talk about his GOP successor, George Pataki, making the move was just talk.
Attorney Felix Lasarte, 36, brought his 9-year-old daughter to see Giuliani speak last week in Hialeah, Fla. He was not bothered by the concept of three New Yorkers vying for the presidency; he even thought their Empire State pedigree was a plus.
"Coming from a big city, it really helps the candidate to address the issues that are really relevant to the country," Lasarte said. "Certainly on issues of safety and terrorists, it helps if you're from New York."
As some people noted, two of the three are not New Yorkers anyway: Giuliani was born in Brooklyn, but Clinton hails from Illinois and Bloomberg still bears a trace of his Boston accent.
"They just happen to be living in the New York area," said Marvin Hall, 57, of Chicago. Hall said he is more concerned with the abilities than their addresses, although a fellow Windy City resident wondered if too many candidates from adjoining zip codes was a good idea.
"It doesn't give me heartburn, or cause concern, but you know what?" said Mary Tripoli, a Chicago court clerk. "I don't think it's a great idea. For one thing, it's not really representative of the nation."