Election Coverage / Government Watch / Politics

New York Democrats Face Unexpected Reckoning as Poll Numbers Turn Sour

AMAC Exclusive – By Daniel Berman

New York

Just over a year since the once-rising star of Andrew Cuomo came crashing back to earth, New York Democrats face a potentially even more devastating setback in November’s midterm elections. Acting Governor Kathy Hochul, who succeeded Cuomo, suddenly finds herself in a close race, one RealClearPolitics has classified as a tossup. Polling averages now show her leading her opponent, Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin, by 6 points. Elsewhere in the Empire State, races once thought safe for Democrats are also in play.

To understand just how unexpected and revolutionary this change is, no Republican candidate for Governor, Senator, or President has won more than 41 percent of the vote in New York since 2002. The highest statewide total for any Republican since that year was 46.26 percent in the Comptroller race by businessman Harry Wilson in 2010, who nevertheless lost by 4.5 points. Down-ballot offices have been less partisan, though Democrats have done well in that category also.

YearPresidentGovernorSenator
2006N/A65.3%-27.1% D67%-31% D
200862.88%-36.23% DN/AN/A
2010N/A63%-33.5% D66.3%-32.2% D
201263.35%-35.15% DN/A72.2%-26.3%
2014N/A54.3%-40.3% DN/A
201659.01%-36.52% DN/A70.6%-27.2% D
2018N/A59.62%-36.21% D67%-33% D
202060.87%-37.74%N/AN/A

Zeldin is a solid candidate, having defeated a Democrat incumbent in 2014 and then held the seat for three more elections in a district that voted for Barack Obama twice. He is also benefiting from hailing from Long Island, a shift from the upstate candidates Republicans have generally fielded over the past decade. This may be aiding him in making inroads both with suburban voters and some working-class voters in New York City itself. But most of all, Zeldin is benefiting from serious failings of governance, both at the state level and within New York City, which are driving voter anger toward Democrats.

At the state level, Democrats are still being rocked by Cuomo’s scandals. But even before his disgrace made national news, Cuomo was a deeply controversial figure. His administration was perceived as cronyist bordering on corrupt, and not just by Republicans, but even by many liberal and left-wing activists. Cuomo had, for example, brought in Andy Byford, a British export who had overseen the London Underground subway system, to try and modernize New York’s transit authority, only to declare war upon him when he actually tried to do his job. Cuomo was deeply unpopular upstate, and did worse in both of his subsequent reelections, including in what was otherwise a Democratic landslide year in 2018, than he did when he first won election in 2010.

Kathy Hochul, who served as Cuomo’s Lieutenant Governor, was both a target and an inheritor of his approach to governance. An upstate county official who narrowly won and then lost a heavily Republican seat in the U.S. House, Cuomo seems to have picked her to appeal simultaneously to upstate and female voters, while ensuring his deputy was too politically weak to challenge him. This allowed Cuomo to pose as a “defender of upstate interests” when Hochul was challenged, as she was in the 2018 primary by New York City-based politicians (she won 53 percent to 47 percent) while also making moves to dispose of her when scandals overtook him.

Hochul therefore not only entered office with a limited political base, but also with many of Cuomo’s enemies, including New York City politicians and black and Hispanic figures who felt that, as a white upstate woman on an all-white ticket, she was symbolic of their exclusion from politics. These forces initially had coalesced around State Attorney General Letitia James, who had led investigations into Cuomo and seemed poised to challenge him–and subsequently Hochul when she became Governor. But Hochul was able to rally national support, especially from the leadership team of Schumer and Pelosi, and staved off James’ challenge.  Yet the intra-party jockeying for the nomination left bad blood. James insisted her campaign had been sabotaged and she had been forced out of the race. As a result, Hochul is now suffering a palpable lack of support from the New York City political machine, especially its racial and ethnic components who are angry about the fact that James, a left-wing, African-American woman who had spearheaded legal assaults on both Cuomo and Donald Trump, was passed over.

Those political machines have issues of their own. The decline of New York City was a major story of the last two decades, ever since Rudy Giuliani left office. The decay was slow during the first two terms of Michael Bloomberg’s tenure, while he still remained a Republican and engaged with the role. After Bloomberg left the GOP, his gaze drifted into esoteric directions, with a focus on “quality of life” shifting from providing effective policing and public transport to campaigns against sugary beverages and fast food.

The decline turned into a near collapse under Bloomberg’s successor, Bill DeBlasio, who combined every woke cause imaginable with self- aggrandizement on a level almost equal to Andrew Cuomo. DeBlasio’s son Dante wrote an op-ed in 2019 to explain how he had been warned to beware of the police by his father, who was their boss, which might say something about the problem at the heart of New York City’s government in those years.

Crime skyrocketed under DeBlasio, and the COVID-19 response was a disaster, which Cuomo, apparently recognizing that the state was only big enough for one egotistical incompetent executive with delusions of grandeur, pinned on the mayor. In fact, Cuomo, locked in a personal feud with DeBlasio, almost seemed to welcome the collapse of New York City into near anarchy as vindication against his rival.

Both Cuomo and DeBlasio are gone, the former replaced by Hochul, the latter by Eric Adams, an African American former police officer, but high hopes for the two have been largely disappointed. Both admittedly inherited bad situations, and both can perhaps be termed marginal improvements. But in addition to the divisions their ascension caused, it appears malice on the part of Cuomo and DeBlasio has been replaced by mere incompetence on the part of Hochul and Adams.

Adams has been an eccentric, shilling for veganism, natural remedies, and cryptocurrency, having pledged to take his paycheck in bitcoin shortly before its price collapsed. Hochul, meanwhile, was fully complicit in an effort by Democrats to gerrymander New York’s congressional and legislative districts, which she proudly allowed to be branded the “Hochulmander,” only to see it struck down by New York’s Democrat-appointee-dominated Appeals Court. She then got into a futile conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court over gun control, pushing laws only to see them struck down. Going into this fall, she has little to show for any of her efforts. She is too upstate for New York City’s Democratic machine, too close to Cuomo for upstate residents, and too much of a failure, on everything from gerrymandering to gun control, for liberals or Democrat partisans to feel she is of much use.

That explains the yawning enthusiasm gap which is giving Zeldin an opening to win. Every major Democrat constituency in the state feels demoralized. In turn, Republicans and those open to at least considering voting for a Republican are motivated to turn-out across the state. In fact, what is most evident is how unpolarized the election is. A recent poll by a pollster who worked for both Bill Clinton and Michael Bloomberg found a 50 percent to 44 percent lead for Hochul, but showed her leading in New York City by only 59 percent to 33 percent, a far cry from the 76 percent Joe Biden managed in the city.

Lest these results be considered an outlier, they were echoed by those Quinnipiac University found in an October 18th Poll in which Hochul led by a 59%-37% in New York City, while up only 4%  50% to 46%, statewide.

What is impressive about the race, and perhaps may be Hochul’s saving grace, is that, unlike Kate Brown in Oregon, she is not hated. That same Quinnipiac Poll which found her leading Zeldin by 50%-46% found her job approval rating underwater, but only by 46%-49%, while a even the recent Marist University poll which gave her the largest lead over the last month (10 percent among registered voters and 8 percent among likely voters) nevertheless found her favorability barely positive, with 46 percent viewing her favorably to only 43 percent unfavorably. These are far from great numbers, but Hochul is not dragging down New York State Democrats. On the contrary, her personal favorability is actually helping her. Biden’s approval rating in Quinnipiac, at 47%-50%, is almost identical to Hochul’s in a state he won by 23%.

Hochul is, it appears, being dragged down by the general condition of the state. No better evidence exists than a recent Trafalgar poll which had Hochul up 2 percent, but the ostensible #resistance hero and Trump nemesis Letitia James only up 1 percent in her reelection race for Attorney General. This probably means, as longtime Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen told the New York Post, that Democrats are trying to make the entire race about abortion. Even in New York, partisanship and Trump persecution aren’t moving voters.

Instead, crime is. That is no surprise. Donald Trump is off in Florida, whereas crime is right there at home, literally in the case of Republican Zeldin, whose family suffered a drive-by shooting outside of their house when his twin daughters were home. It is no wonder that not just Hochul but also James are the targets of voter frustration. Voters might understand why James would prefer to spend all her time investigating Trump, but they want her prosecuting violent crime in their own communities.

Hochul and James are not the only New York Democrats set to risk the electorate’s wrath this November. Even if Hochul and James were to win by an underwhelming margin, perhaps 52 percent to 46 percent, that would, thanks to failure of the “Hochulmander,” spell doom for a number of New York House Democrats.

Democrats controlled 19 of New York’s 27 districts coming out of the 2020 election, down from 21 after 2018. While New York lost one seat for a total of 26 after the census, Democrats had planned to use redistricting to win as many as 22 on the new maps, while limiting the Republicans to four. Instead, the courts assigned a special master to draw maps. The maps that emerged are still Democrat leaning due to the nature of the state, but nonetheless give Republicans opportunities to pick up seats in bad years for Democrats. Donald Trump received over 45 percent of the vote in nine of the new seats. If Republicans were to gain 45 percent of the vote this year statewide – up just 7 points from Trump’s 38 percent in 2020 – it would mean the GOP could carry up to 11 seats, transforming a 19-8 Democratic lead into a 15-11 one.

Democrats would like to talk about how the tide is turning, and they are making plays in states like Ohio and North Carolina in their U.S. Senate contests. What is happening in Oregon and now New York belies that bravado. Democrats are learning the hard way that even in their safest states, voters will not care about abstractions like “threats to democracy” if they cannot trust that their children are safe and their state is not being run into the ground.

Daniel Berman is a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics. He also writes as Daniel Roman.               


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THOMAS
3 months ago

Everyone that I know in New York State, including New York City and Long Island, have had it with the corruption in the state! I keep telling those that I love and care about to get the hell out of the state because things are only going to get worse. Unfortunately, too many of them can’t afford or are too afraid to move. It’s apparent that life in America has changed, not for the better, when Americans need to choose between corruption and survival! I’m waiting, not so patiently, for my fellow Americans to declare war on the corruption and treason that’s destroying our country. It’s time to put aside our differences related to color, religion or political differences. This is all about our survival as a free people and a free nation!

Jan13
3 months ago

I’m in upstate NY, you see many Lee Zeldin signs, hardly any Kathy Hochul ones. Also, she is not well liked in upstate regions. If she wins, I’ll probably be joining all my fellow NY staters that left, why stay in a state where the governor tells you you’re not wanted? Andy Cuomo said as much a few years ago, now Hochul said the same a month or so ago. They can keep their liberal paradise.

Adonis
3 months ago

NYS Democrat tyrants worked very hard to deserve bad poling numbers. It’s actually a lot worse than polls are suggesting. They have absolutely nothing to run on. Hochul talks about left’s high church of abortion and gun control, while abortion is way down the list of NY voters and crime is out of control after Democrats passed their pro criminals bail reform. Ousted Cuomo’s wing of the party is not helping Hochul at all, there is obvious schism there. NYC subways are crime centers. Zeldin will win for the reasons I just mentioned.

Michael J
3 months ago

Didn’t Joseph Stalin say it’s not the voters that determine election outcomes, it’s the vote counters. I’m paraphrasing of course.

THOMAS
3 months ago
Reply to  Michael J

It’s time to make VOTER FRAUD a major crime, punishable by not less than 20 years in Federal Prison. To me, it’s just as bad as treason and should be treated no differently! Of course, the Democrats who we already know are up to their eyebrows in VOTER FRAUD, might have a different opinion. Nevertheless, until Americans take a hard stand against it, VOTER FRAUD will continue to undermine our election process.
Then, once we deal with those committing VOTER FRAUD, we can direct our efforts to exposing corruption in our government and bringing those responsible to justice (If that still prevails in our country). No matter what, nothing is going to change until WE, the American People, force the change(s)!

David
3 months ago

Republican Zeldin is the best choice for governor to minimize your chance of getting pushed on the subway tracks and surviving only to have the criminal that pushed you off the subway tracks allowed out of jail the very next day to do it again. I’m glad I’m outta New York but if the democrats remain in office the insanity will only keep on spreading and escalating.

jocko
3 months ago

AT THIS MOMENT, THE CANCEROUS, ANTI-AMERICAN, LYING, CHEATING libs ARE ARRANGING THE FRAUD FOR THE ELECTIONS

THOMAS
3 months ago
Reply to  jocko

I don’t disagree but, until American Citizens are willing to take whatever steps necessary to stop it, VOTER FRAUD will continue to plague our elections! With that thought in mind, VIGILANTE JUSTICE, might be just the thing to discourage dishonesty during our elections. Killing one, ten, twenty or a hundred FRAUDSTERS might just do the trick to discouraging others! Hey Joe, stay away from the DROP BOXES!

jocko
3 months ago

HOPE THE libs ARE WASTED BY ALL OF THE illegal CRIMINALS, ONLY

Philip Hammersley
3 months ago

New Yorkers should pay heed to what Trump said in 2016: “What the h*** do you have to lose” by voting for the GOP? The DIMMs have run everything into the ground! If a foreign government did what the DIMMs have done to urban citizens, we’d declare war on them!

Rich
3 months ago

We can only hope and pray that New Yorkers have started to wake up. We will only know after this election.

anna hubert
3 months ago
Reply to  Rich

They need to come put of deep coma not sleep

Dave Hamilton
3 months ago

Ultra Liberals will shoot themselves in the foot because of their policies. Republicans cant get out of their own way and show voters they can and will clean up the mess the Dems have created and concentrate on the many Dems short comings to the voters. We the People have had enough of Politicians failures and empty ( if not delusional) promises from both partys. Biden, Pelosi and Schumer are total failures and have delivered nothing tangible to hang their hats on. Mc Connell and McCarthy are mush mouths that have no backbone or loyalties and the Republican base is tired of them. Its up to leaders like Tim Scott, Jim Jordan and Ron DeSantis to get a real message out to voters and make a difference. Republicans will win if they deliver a clear and powerful message to voters and its up to Republicans to Right the Ship and return us to where America belongs, at home and abroad!

Marin
3 months ago
Reply to  Dave Hamilton

Well said Sir.

Jeb
3 months ago

Doesn’t really matter who or what you believe in when you and your family are cold, hungry and unable to pay the bills. We all become as one at this point. Most everyone knows at this point a red wave is their only shot at hope.

Boz
3 months ago

Dominion will boost Dems up at the last minute…..or maybe even a couple of days later….

Philip Hammersley
3 months ago
Reply to  Boz

Didn’t you hear? They say their machines cannot be accessed by outside computers!

PaulE
3 months ago

Well I’m sure the Democrat Party in New York has already printed up enough ballots to ensure Hochul and maybe even James win by a squeaker in the final count. In a state where the voter turn-out is usually terrible, it’s just a matter of which counting centers they need to dump how many of these bogus ballots into the system for optimal effect.

NYC had an opportunity to vote for a Republican Mayor just last year after years of incompetent Democrat rule under de Blasio. They instead overwhelmingly opted to elect another do nothing Democrat and now they are complaining things have only gotten worse. Until the people of NY turn out in overwhelming numbers to vote, so the opportunity to inject bogus ballots becomes a lot harder, nothing with improve.

Bill on the Hill
3 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

Between NY & your home state of NJ Paul, as well as my small state of VT, population 660,000, give or take population wise, VT has less people than the city of Hartford, CT., that said ( 50 ) plus years of ABSOLUTE Democrat control of both Houses in VT speaks volumes, they get reelected year after year, decade after decade, at this point it is score after score of years of perpetual Democrat rule, the end result, NOTHING ever changes, they will maintain their respective status quos in perpetuity it seems…
Jump across the river from here & into NH, they too have a RINO governor in Chris Sununu, however the GOP holds the purse strings in Concord, NH with a GOP majority in BOTH Houses, that makes a profound difference for the citizens of NH in that CRT & Gender Studies are not allowed in K-12 public schools by State Law… If Maggie Hassen has her way as the incumbent Senator, she votes with Biden 99.9% of the time, she has to go & General Bolduc is just the person to replace her. They either cheat in their elections again to keep Hassen in office or the people themselves are foolish, i.e. stupid enough to voter her in again, they will get no sympathy from this cat…
All the best,
Bill… :~)

William C Smith
3 months ago

It is long past time for every community across the nation to rid themselves of loud-mouthed, free-loading politicians, their suporters and relatives. Get out the vote!

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