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And the Winner Is…

November 3, 2010

Searching for the proverbial handle on the moment? So are we.

A Republican wave swept the country. And New York may have contributed to it more than any other state, with five congressional seats switching hands. But at the same time, Democrats in New York won all the statewide races by significant margins and may have retained control of the State Senate.

How does this square? Well, it’s hard to reach a definitive conclusion without analyzing data that won’t be available for days, but three factors may have been involved.

First, Paladino was indeed a drag on the Republicans. Exit polls that showed that more than 75 percent of people did not view Paladino as “trustworthy.” Women voters were especially turned off.  The top of the ticket does matter. The Dems had Cuomo, Schumer and Gillibrand; the Republicans had (we’ll be nice) an unconventional candidate.

Second, GOTV.  The Republicans had the momentum and the right message, but couldn’t turn people out, especially downstate. Ironically, Andrew Cuomo’s strategy of keeping unions at bay may have had opposite effect of energizing labor. Unions responded with a major GOTV push for people they regarded as champions – Schneiderman and Dinapoli, and certain Senate Dems.

Third, something strange was going on with regard to advertising by national conservative groups. These groups bought up all the available advertising in some markets. One would have thought that their anti-Obama message would have helped New York Republicans, but it might have interfered. It might have kept Senate Republican challengers from breaking through with their message about corruption.

All eyes are now on the Antoine Thompson, Suzi Oppenheimer and Craig Johnson races, which are too close to call. Both Thompson and Oppenheimer are ahead by a few hundred votes; Johnson is down by a similar number.

But regardless of how these races break, it will still be a very close margin the Senate — totally unlike what has happened in the House of Representatives.


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