For those of us who've been watching and waiting for this election since November 5th, 2008, it's pretty safe to say that only the most optimistic Republican activist would predict anything but Doom in New York. Even the special election to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when it was announced didn't seem to garner much interest from any major Republicans in the state (if there even is such a thing any more in NY, of course).
In fact, the only person I've seen openly discussing a Gillibrand loss is Dick Morris, and while over the past few years Dick has been pretty solidly behind the Republicans, I still have to take a fair bit of what he says with a grain of salt. After all, it is Dick Morris, and he did work for Bill Clinton.
That said, I think there are several factors coming in to play that may very well result in a "shock" in November, when New York wakes up to Senator DioGuardi, whose name recognition is so high, I had to look it up to make sure I spelled it correctly.
I've been thinking along these lines for a while, but something happened over the past few days that clinched it.
Morris has repeatedly talked about Gillibrand getting caught up in the Republican wave, especially one with low voter turnout. The question was and is, how big is the wave?
This is what caught my attention. On Sunday, Rasmussen released a poll of the Hawaii election contest between long-time Senator Daniel Inouye, and challenger Cam Cavasso showing the incumbent up by 13 points, 53-40.
What? That's it? A 13 point lead? And only 53%?
Couple that with Republican Congressman Djou looking as if he'll keep his seat, and Democratic Gubernatorial candidate (and former holder of said Djou seat) Neil Abercrombie failing to create any kind of meaningful lead in that race (~2 points as it stands today), and you see that certainly in Hawaii, surfs up - the wave is definitely coming. Enough to defeat Inouye? Probably not, but still, 53%?
But what does this have to do with New York and Gillibrand? After all, Hawaii isn't New York, except perhaps for blindly voting for Democrats for far too long.
Well the wave is only one part of it. Two other factors are in play in New York, one since the special election was announced, the other only more recently.
New Yorkers are faced with a relatively rare scenario this election. They get to vote for two Senators on the same day. People like balance. Especially if you're fed up with Washington D.C., but don't want to elect a Republican because, as we're all constantly reminded by the inhabitant of the White House, we all know they created the mess. But New Yorkers get two votes. People like balance. One 'R', one 'D'. Cha-ching!
Think about it: asked by a pollster about the Gillibrand-DioGuardi race, a respondent may say "Gillibrand" as they typically pull the lever for the Democrat. But faced with two Senate choices in the polling booth (or on the absentee ballot), and, well, that answer will change for some people. My instinct says 5-20% of the people voting will split their vote. The question is, 5%? or 20%? (As much as I'd like to see "Chuckie" gone, it's not happening, but we can dream...)
But there's another factor. Carl Paladino. And no, I don't think DioGuardi is going to be riding any coattails in that race. But people like balance. And Paladino is making it real hard for people to vote for him. Which means more chance of an 'R' vote in the Senate races.
Gillibrand is currently polling ~53%. DioGuardi, ~38%. 15 points. Sounds a bit like Hawaii, no? Except in this case, drop the 'D' turnout a bit, add in the now-obvious wave, 2 Senate races and a self-imolating Gubernatorial candidate*, and I think she's in real trouble.
* A man I'd still vote for if I lived there, simply because he is what he is, not what some strategist is telling him to be.