Kathy Hochul's falling polls could propel her campaign for New York governor

Kathy Hochul’s falling polls could propel her campaign for New York governor

“When the Democrats come out, we win,” Hochul said Friday morning on CNN. “I think what’s not captured in the polls is that there is really, finally, energy on the pitch. It doesn’t show up any earlier, but you just have to peak on Election Day.

Polls show Hochul leading by 4 to 11 points – a narrower-than-expected margin that has Democrats on edge. A recent internal Hochul poll bumped it up to single digits, with less than 50% of the vote, according to a Democratic consultant briefed on the results.

Democrats hope the polls will serve as a wake-up call to their base — whose mere recruitment eclipses Republicans and independents combined.

In another unusual turn for deeply blue New York, the race for money also tightened on the final stretch of the campaign. While Hochul has the fundraising advantage overall, independent groups have pumped in $20 million through two super PACs to help Zeldin in recent weeks, according to campaign fundraising records.

As a result, ad spend is close, with Zeldin and its groups losing $9.3 million in ads since Oct. 18, compared to $9 million by Hochul and its allies, according to AdImpact data. Most of the money was spent on the expensive New York media market.

“Having the polls tighter than expected gives both sides a great opportunity and a great message to excite their constituents with, ‘It’s close, we could win. It’s close, we could lose,'” said Siena College poll spokesman Steven Greenberg, who has managed several statewide Democratic races.

The race will come down to the regional benchmarks that have long been New York’s election recipe: Republicans must win upstate, suburban areas and more than 30% of the vote in New York. Democrats need to increase the score in the heavily blue city and then break even or emerge slightly ahead in the rest of the state.

Zeldin recognized the winning balance, which a statewide Republican has not achieved since George Pataki won a third term as governor in 2002.

“If you get less than 30% in New York, you can’t win,” Zeldin said in an interview last week. “If you get over 35% in New York, it starts to get really tough to lose, depending on what that number is north of 35%.

State Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs told reporters Tuesday that the competitive race will boost turnout and help Democrats, especially in the city.

“We have a strong field program across the state and especially in the city,” he said.

But he also warned that Hochul could struggle in suburban New York, including Long Island’s Zeldin Territory, which has nearly 2.2 million voters, or about 18% of the state’s total. .

“We may be lacking in the suburbs, but we’re fighting hard for the suburbs,” said Jacobs, who is also the Democratic chairman in one of Long Island’s two counties.

Hochul, a Buffalo native, will fare better on his home turf than other recent gubernatorial candidates, Jacobs predicts.

“She’s very well-liked, especially in western New York, not just in her home county,” he said.

A battle for New York voters

Zeldin is making inroads into the city, where high voter turnout has supported Democrats across the state for generations. Polls show Hochul continues to lead in all five boroughs, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than seven to one.

A Quinnipiac University poll on Oct. 18 found it led Zeldin 59% to 37% in the city, but only edged it by 4 points overall – one of the closest public polls. A Siena College poll released the same day showed him with a much better advantage for the city: 70% against 23% and an overall victory of 11 points.

Both polls would have stunned Democrats four years ago, when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo beat Republican opponent Marc Molinaro in the city by 84% to 16%.

Zeldin fights on the fringes, hoping to pick up enough voters frustrated with the ruling party over crime and inflation.

He has campaigned in the city’s few GOP strongholds in Staten Island and parts of Queens, while Hochul aims to energize a base in Democratic strongholds in Brooklyn and Manhattan that his supporters fear may not enthuse. She plans a unity rally with former President Bill Clinton in Brooklyn, Senate Majority Leader chuck schumerMayor Eric Adams and Attorney General Tish James on Saturday.

And President Joe Biden is expected to join her in Yonkers on Sunday to try to shore up support in the suburbs, according to The Capitol Pressroom, a public radio broadcast. It would be Biden’s third visit to New York since early October.

“At the end of the day, at the end of the day, I think it’s about making sure that you drive the turnout and that you make people pay attention to these elections – that they matter; they are consequential,” said State Sen. Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx), who leads the Bronx Democratic Committee.

Republicans are showing “an enthusiasm we haven’t seen in four cycles,” according to City Councilman Joe Borelli, whose Staten Island district is heavily Republican. He’s also working on a pro-Zeldin PAC.

Building support across New York

Borelli said Zeldin’s almost singular focus on crime appealed to voters worried about safety on the city’s subways. He predicted that Asian and Orthodox Jewish New Yorkers would be fascinated by his positions on educational issues.

Zeldin — who would be New York’s first Jewish Republican governor — said he would not intervene with the yeshivas. Private religious academies have come under increased scrutiny due to allegations that many do not comply with state laws requiring adequate secular education. He has also aligned himself with many Asian voters, many of whom support keeping the entrance exam to the city’s specialized public high schools.

Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods revealed themselves two years ago to former President Donald Trump.

“People in my community usually go to the incumbent unless there’s a reason not to, and, in the case of Congressman Zeldin, he’s come to our community several times over the course of of the last year. It’s a known quantity,” City Council member Kalman Yeger, a conservative Democrat who has not officially supported the race, said in an interview.

Hochul has won the support of several prominent Jewish leaders, but Zeldin appears to be the favorite among the civically active community, based on endorsements.

Yeger said the excitement among Republicans in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods like Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood hasn’t been seen in two decades: “Borough Park neighborhoods are significantly and almost exclusively supportive of Congressman Zeldin.”

City Council member Diana Ayala, a Democrat supporting Hochul, said her constituents would vote for Hochul, but they are not excited about the race.

“I believe the governor will do well in parts of my district, in East Harlem and the South Bronx, but I know we’ve seen a trend over the past two years where we’ve had Latino voters who were registered Democrats. change party lines,” Ayala said in an interview.

The number of early votes through Wednesday showed an increase on Long Island, a good sign for Zeldin, Newsday reported. Turnout is also expected to be strong in parts of the upstate where House races are tight.

The key for Hochul in the upstate is to massively win larger counties, such as Monroe, Onondaga, Albany and his home territory of Erie – the most populous upstate county. The suburb of Westchester County, upstate New York, is also key: Cuomo’s wins were boosted by strong wins in what was once his home county.

City-based Democratic consultant Jon Paul Lupo, who does not work for Hochul, said the governor was subject to national trends “not under his control” – such as a political shift to the right among some Latino and white voters .

“I don’t think his personal excitement is really the issue. The question is, do New York Democrats understand that this race is close enough to matter, and will they go and run? he said in an interview.

“Over the past two weeks, we have seen more actions from the Hochul campaign to achieve this.”

Anna Gronewold contributed to this report.

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