September 23, 2010
Things Just Got Interesting
When Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino won a stunning upset in the GOP gubernatorial primary last week, we knew it would be a game changer. After all, voters viewed Rick Lazio, long the presumptive Republican nominee for governor, as one of the faces of a two-headed hydra that was going to pretty much move the same direction over time, no matter who was in charge. He was heading for a thumping at the hands of the “inevitable” Andrew Cuomo.
That “inevitable” billing was the last thing Boy Cuomo needed. In essence, it allowed him, as Attorney General, to occupy the role of the incumbent—in a year when incumbents are getting steamrolled around the country. (There’s an old saying that A.G. stands for “Almost Governor”—again, virtual incumbency.) It was only a matter of time before Cuomo’s blowout projections blew up in his face.
In the past 24 hours, we’ve seen, first, a Quinnipiac College poll that put the Cuomo-Paladino contest at six points, and another from SurveyUSA, that put the race at nine points. The problem for Andrew is that, in both polls, he’s at 49%.
When you’re “inevitable”—again, essentially the incumbent—being below 50% heading into the final weeks of the campaign is considered deadly. And, as Cuomo was at 54% in an earlier Rasmussen poll, this is an incredible collapse. In very simple terms, Andrew Cuomo’s numbers are going the wrong direction, while Paladino’s are going the right direction.
Add to that the old saw of the polling world that says that voters who are undecided on election day (and, frankly, those who are undecided 10 days before election day) always break for the challenger, and Cuomo’s in real trouble. Francine DelMonte-sized trouble. If he continues to fall further below 50%, this race will end with Cuomo on the wrong side of the finish line.
(Note to Andrew: When your numbers Upstate are incredibly weak, an endorsement from the liberal mayor of New York City is not the best way to change your standing outside the Five Boroughs.)
All that being said, the Cuomo-Paladino War may not be the most exciting gladiatorial spectacle set for the days ahead.
Buried in all that polling data was some even more stunning data on the contest for the Senate seat currently occupied by David Paterson’s handpicked replacement for Hillary Clinton, Kirsten Gillibrand. And no matter how hot Harry Reid thinks she is, voters are apparently underwhelmed by the appointed Senator. According to SurveyUSA’s numbers, she and Republican challenger Joe DioGuardi are essentially tied, at 45%-44%, well within the survey’s +/- 4.2 point margin of error.
What we said about Cuomo being in trouble applies doubly here. The incumbent—the real, honest-to-God incumbent—is at 45%. Those numbers mean voters are ready to fire Gillibrand. If the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the NRSC, starts making ad buys in New York for DioGuardi—or if influential conservative groups like the Club for Growth do so—Gillibrand is history.
Expect the Cuomo-run New York State Democratic Party to start slinging the mud. Oh, wait, they've already started, and they've returned to the last refuge of a doomed Democratic campaign: calling the other guy a racist, a bigot, etc., and mobilizing the Sharptonite marchers.
Stay mad. It’s gonna be one hell of a bumpy ride.