The Campaign Spot

The GOP’s Empire State of Mind

Well, New York is either seeing a big Republican surge . . . or it isn’t.

Arguing against:

The Siena Research Institute found [Democrat gubernatorial candidate Andrew] Cuomo beats [Republican Carl] Paladino 57 percent to 24 percent among registered voters. Conservative Party nominee Rick Lazio is backed by 8 percent, while 10 percent are undecided.

Further arguing against:

A new poll finds Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand maintaining double-digit leads over their Republican challengers. The Siena College poll released Thursday found Gillibrand leading Republican Senate candidate Joe DioGuardi by 57 percent to 31 percent. Schumer has a wider lead over Jay Townsend, 63 percent to 30 percent.

But I would note that these polls are of registered voters; the shocking ones from Quinnipiac and SurveyUSA are of likely voters.

A Washington Republican points to interesting local results in November 2009 as a possible omen. I wrote at the time:

NASSAU COUNTY

Republican challenger Ed Mangano is, as of this writing, not quite the next Nassau county executive. But he leads Tom Suozzi by 353 votes after a weekend of absentee and affidavit ballot counting, a process of counting that is expected to extend past the Thanksgiving holiday.

A county-executive race doesn’t dominate the headlines the way a presidential race does, but Suozzi entered this race the heavy favorite. In a county with more registered Democrats than Republicans, in a state where the GOP is supposed to be dead, an incumbent with a huge fundraising advantage ought to be able to win in his sleep. Perhaps that is a good way of describing what Suozzi attempted; he finished the race with perhaps $2 million in his campaign war chest unspent.

Mangano’s message was nothing fancy; he was a local who pledged to eliminate government waste. As in New Jersey, locals are furious about high property taxes, and in a slumping economy (the local unemployment rate in October was 7.2 percent, compared to 5 percent a year earlier) the general mood was frustration that government was taking more but delivering less. Suozzi had spent earlier years criticizing state government and running a “fix Albany” campaign (part of his failed bid for governor in 2006); Mangano jabbed that Suozzi was “so busy trying to fix Albany, he forgot about Nassau County.”

In the end, Republicans were more motivated to vote than Democrats were; Newsday found turnout in traditional GOP areas was 32 percent, while it was 22 percent in traditionally Democratic neighborhoods.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY

Rob Astorino is supposed to be the kind of Republican candidate who can’t win in the northeast anymore. He ran a fairly explicit campaign emphasizing fiscal conservatism, depicting the county’s management as wasteful, bureaucratic, inefficient, corrupt, and out of touch. He hammered his rival, telling voters that the incumbent county executive, Andy Spano, “raised your taxes almost 60 percent in the last seven years alone. Mr. Spano has ballooned the annual budget by $1 billion in the past 12 years, from $800 million to $1.8 billion per year. He spends more than 87 nations do, and you pay for it.” Intriguingly, while the pro-life Astorino didn’t put his faith or social views front and center, his conservative bona fides are impeccable:  He is a radio host and program director for the Catholic Channel on Sirius Satellite Radio and hosts a Thursday-night program with Cardinal Edward Egan, the former archbishop of New York.

Astorino shellacked the three-term Democrat, 57 percent to 43 percent, in a county where Democrats have nearly a 2-to-1 advantage in voter registration.  This is a county where Al Gore and John Kerry carried 58 percent of the vote, the county Bill and Hillary Clinton call home. It may be a bit self-serving, but Spano contends that his defeat reflects voters’ anger at Democrats at the state and national level. “It has nothing to do with me, as far as I’m concerned,” he told the New York Times. “They’re mad at Albany, and Washington.”

A big problem for all of the GOP’s statewide candidates will be money; New York is among the most expensive states to run in. One Republican worried that Gillibrand has a big war chest that she’s going to be putting to use the next six weeks, while DioGuardi doesn’t have much in the bank. “Anything is possible in this environment but he needs to raise money fast,” he said.

UPDATE: Brian Walsh, NRSC Communications Director: “Since being appointed by David Paterson, Kirsten Gillibrand has blindly rubberstamped her party bosses’ out-of-control spending and debt in Washington, and it’s clear that, just like the rest of the country, voters in New York are fed up with the Democrats’ reckless spending agenda.  So the message to voters from our candidates in New York is the same as our other Republican candidates across the country which is that ‘if you support the bailouts, support a $13 trillion debt, support government health care and support tax increases in a recession than vote for Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer. But if you believe we need to restore accountability and responsibility in Washington than vote for Joe DioGuardi and Jay Townsend.’  It’s clear this message is resonating and we intend to carry it forward in New York and around the country right up until November 2nd.”

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