New York may emerge as the epicenter of a political earthquake on Nov. 2.
This longtime blue-state bystander could elect a Republican governor, dethrone House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and topple the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate.
Yesterday's unveiling of the GOP "Pledge to America" recalls the "Contract with America" of 1994, but 2010 is shaping up to be a larger upheaval.
In the Empire State, the GOP primaries tested the establishment candidates for governor and senator and found them wanting. In their place, primary voters nominated two feisty, scrappy contenders with hearts and souls not far from the tea party movement — Carl Paladino and Joe DioGuardi.
A Rasmussen survey right after the primary gave Cuomo a comfortable 54-38 lead. But Paladino trails by only 49-43 in the Quinnipiac poll and 49-40 in the SurveyUSA poll, both taken in the last few days. (A Siena poll released yesterday shows a 57-24 race, a finding out of kilter with everything else; it may have oversampled Democrats.)
And, just when Republicans saw reduced chances of picking up a Senate seat in Delaware, comes the news that former Rep. Joe DioGuardi has a great shot at unelected Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. A Rochester Democrat and Chronicle/White Plains Journal News poll released yesterday has him just 1 point behind her, 45-44, while Quinnipiac has her ahead by only 48-42.
Republicans need 10 pickups to take the Senate; their candidates lead in eight races: Arkansas, Indiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Illinois, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Nevada, where Harry Reid is below 50 percent and tied with Republican Sharron Angle, looks to be a GOP gain, too because undecideds almost always break against the incumbent in the closing days.
DioGuardi is the best bet for that 10th seat, but Republicans can also hope to score Senate gains in California, Washington state, and Connecticut. Even in Delaware, Christine O'Donnell may yet pull out a win.
On the House side, New York's role is no less crucial. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the body charged with running the GOP House campaign, lists seven New York seats as among the hundred it considers to be in play — tied with Pennsylvania for the national lead.
The key races:
- Suffolk, where Randy Altschuler has a good chance to defeat Rep. Tim Bishop.
- In Westchester/Putnam, Dr. Nan Hayworth trails Rep. John Hall by only 44-42, according to a Sept. 12 poll by Public Policy Polling.
- Hudson Valley, where challenger Chris Gibson trails Rep. Scott Murphy by only 45-40, according to an Aug. 1 poll by the American Action Forum.
- In Plattsburgh/Watertown/the North Country, Republican Matt Doheny looks likely to succeed, assuming the Conservative Party nominee (who lost the GOP primary) doesn't split the vote.
- Central New York, including the Finger Lakes, Utica and Rome, where incumbent Mike Arcuri trails challenger Richard Hanna by 50-37 in a poll by the Democratic Benenson Strategy Group on Aug. 31.
- Syracuse, where Democratic incumbent Dan Maffei nurses a narrow 44-41 lead over Republican Ann Marie Buerkle, according to an Aug. 1 poll by the American Action Forum.
- The southern tier (Olean, Hornell, Corning, Elmira and Canandaigua counties), the district of ex-Rep. Eric Massa, a Democrat who resigned amid scandal and charges that he was being marginalized by the House leadership for opposing Obamacare. Republican Tom Reed leads Democrat Mathew Zeller by 44-30.
Add to that list possible GOP pickups by John Gomez against Democratic Rep. Steve Israel in Suffolk and George Phillips vs. Rep. Maurice Hinchey in the Newburgh/ Poughkeepsie/Binghamton district, and Republicans have nine possible House pickups in New York.
Since many of these incumbent Democrats are well below the 50 percent threshold and their Republican challengers are right on their trail, most of these insurgents look likely to achieve their goal.
In all, 2010 may produce the biggest shakeup in New York's recent history.
© Dick Morris & Eileen McGann