Taking Baby Steps in New York

    Say what you will about California, but perhaps a bigger bastion of liberal, Democratic Party power is in New York State.  With a Democratic Governor, two Democratic Senators and 93% of their Congressional delegation Democrats, they clearly out perform California.  At least California has a “Republican” Governor and only 64% of their Congressional delegation is Democratic.  There will be some changes in New York this year, but not on the order of Pennsylvania or Ohio.  Call them baby steps.

     In the race for Governor to replace David Patterson, Andrew Cuomo is almost a lock to win.  Nothing against the New York State Republican Party, the primary voters or the TEA Party express, but really?  Carl Palladino?  Since winning the Republican Party, Palladino has been a walking political gaffe, possibly stealing that distinction from Joe Biden.  And in their recent debate, where was Palladino (besides taking a leak)?  Cuomo did not have to do anything which is what he did and he still stays on top.

     In the dual Senate races this year, it would appear both incumbent Democrats- Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (whom Harry Reid thinks is the hottest female on Capitol Hill- where are you Krystal Ball?)- will win their races.  This is not due to the inherent strengths of either candidate but to the weaknesses of the state’s Republican Party.  After this election, they need to begin targeting, recruiting, and grooming potential candidates that can actually win statewide elections.

   The only interesting aspect of the Senate race is if the Democrats keep control of the Senate, but Harry Reid is defeated in Nevada.  It is rumored that Schumer will vie for Reid’s old leadership position.  If Reid loses- a very distinct possibility- expect a battle royale between Schumer and Dick Durbin of Illinois for Reid’s position.  Durbin is considered more liberal than Schumer (if that is possible) and certainly more confrontational.  Durbin being a majority leader with a 51-49 margin would either have to change drastically, or expose himself as a liberal demagogue.  With a more narrow majority, the more “rational” voices in the Senate would probably opt for Schumer.  Expect Obama to weigh in somehow since Durbin was his mentor during his do-nothing tenure in the Senate.  If Schumer then prevails, perhaps another smackdown of Obama?

     The best chances for the Republican Party in New York is at the Congressional level.  But there is a problem.  Fifteen of the state’s 29 districts lie either in or within the New York City metropolitan area.  These districts average a 23.3 Democratic rating on the Cook PVI, average a 20.8% black population, and average a 24.5% Hispanic population.  The demographics and past voting behavior indicate that Republicans have very slim chances in these districts (numbers 4 through 18).  Its so bad that even the ethically, if not criminally, challenged Charles Rangel will win re-election!  In the remaining 14 districts, they only average a +1.1 Democratic rating, are only 6.8% black and 4.6% Hispanic.  So forget the New York metropolitan area (except possibly the 13th District which includes Staten Island).

     Instead, Republican chances are best in the 1st, 20th, 23rd, 24th and 29th districts.  The First District includes the eastern tip of Long Island.  In 2008, this district barely went to Obama by a mere 3 percentage points.  Yet, incumbent Tim Bishop won by 16 points.  Of all the districts, this would seem the less likely to fall into Republican hands this year.

     The 20th district along New York’s eastern border upstate again comes into play.  Scott Murphy holds this district after a special election and faces Chris Gibson.  Currently, Murphy leads Gibson by double digits in the polls.  This district is nominally rated Republican and the demographics favor Republican candidates.  Murphy has also outraised Gibson 3-1.  Given the lateness of the race, it may just be too late for Gibson to mount a winnable challenge.  Meanwhile in the 23rd District in the northwest corner of the state, Democratic incumbent Bill Owens is facing a serious challenge from Matt Doheny and leads by only 2 points in the polls and their fundraising efforts have been pretty even.  The demographics mirror those of the 20th and the closeness of the eace this late in the campaign and Doheny’s almost tit-for-tat fundraising indicates this may be New York’s first pick up seat for the Republican Party.

    Meanwhile in north central New York in the 24th District, Democratic incumbent Michael Arcuri was an early target and he faces Richard Hanna.  The most recent poll puts Arcuri up by 10 points which is where he has been most of this campaign. Hanna matched Arcuri in the money race and whether there is enough gas left in the tank for the final two weeks may make this race closer than it stands now.  This is one that needs to be watched.  Finally, the most likely seat to be picked up is the 29th District, currently left vacant after the resignation of Eric Massa.  Tom Reed will most likely be the next Republican Representative from this upstate, Elmira-area district.

   I know that some people may be placing the 25th or the 27th Districts into play, but my view is more guarded.  And realistic.  For as some see brightness for Republicans, I see a realistic two-seat pick up.  Of course, more would be great.  But, based upon the Gallup Polling State of the States figures, New Yorkers view the economy- the main decider of electoral outcomes this year- about the same as voters in other states where the bulk of voters will retrun incumbents to Congress.  For example, New Yorkers do not view the economy as badly as someone from Michigan or Ohio, but not as good as voters in Louisiana.  instead, they are on par with states like Missouri (one seat to flip), Minnesota (no seats to flip), and Washington (one seat to flip).  Given New York’s larger size, flipping two seats to the Republican column would seem like the most likely outcome this year.  But it is a start.  Republicans are taking baby steps in the Empire State and hopefully they will be fully walking in 2012.