By Sam Foster
Finally, it is Election Day. A day I've been waiting for since stimulus one of seventeen hundred was passed back in February 2010 (also, the day I started blogging). To commemorate this momentous rejection of Obamanism, I will be assisting Professor William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection for his all-day live blog of the elections coast to coast. Prof. Jacobson has a snazzy setup and some excellent bloggers contributing. Please, please stop by throughout the day, you will not be sorry. Also, tonight I'll be live blogging the NY election returns at LCR and Legal Insurrection from Ann Marie Buerkle's (NY-25) location.
So if you are a NY outsider and you are wondering where NY stands in the midst of the largest Red Election Wave in history, below is a look at the close races, the polling data, the unanswered questions, and a few predictions for you.
The biggest story for NY tonight will be the congressional races. There are no Republicans that are competitive in the state-wide contests. Siena polling in Upstate NY is showing a trend across the 10 district region, where undecided likely voters are swinging heavily Republican. Conservatively, NY will produce roughly 5 seats that will change hands from Republican to Democrat, while easily retaining the two seats currently held by Pete King and Chris Lee. Below is a list of the races by difficulty for Republicans.
Republican Tom Reed is expected to win an easy race against Democrat Matt Zeller for disgraced Eric Massa's old seat. The only polling conducted is nearly a month old and projected Tom Reed in the lead by 14 points. That's a long-time to go without polling, but it seems unlikely that Matt Zeller will win. Both Zeller and Reed were wildly unknown, but the DCCC threw in the towel early on Zeller and Matt hasn't received any support and had poor media relations (aka he didn't bother sending out press releases and frequently failed to respond to media requests). Overcoming the ghost of Massa will be a seemingly impossible task.
Massa had one the seat with an outstanding GOTV operation. Will the pieces of the Massa movement pick themselves up and vote Zeller? I doubt it.
Prediction: Tom Reed by 10 points.
Scott Murphy barely squeaked by Jim Tedisco in a special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's seat. Now former Army Colonel Chris Gibson is promising to retire Murphy after little more than a year. Gibson has a strong story; two tours, a PhD from Cornell, and lots of ground support as evidenced by strong single donor fundraising. Recent polling put him up 9 points on Scott Murphy and it is not moving anywhere.
No outstanding questions in this race. Chris Gibson, game, set, match!
Prediction: Chris Gibson by 6 points
Now we move into some of the stickier races. Polling put Democrat John Hall ahead by one point in the final days, but Nan Hayworth has held the lead by three points in the past. However, the history of elections, according to Nate Silver, gives Hayworth a 69% chance of claiming the seat based on her earlier three point lead and I think she can pull it off. This race is John Hall's Orleans rocker image against well-liked Dr. Nan Hayworth and I'm sorry John Hall, this is a serious election this year and the voters will choose the Dr.
The fact that John Hall has been disengaged with his district isn't going to help either. He utilized OFA for ground operations over leading a grassroots campaign, ducked a debate sending someone else to stand in for him, and had other politicians stand in for him at town halls as well.
Prediction: Nan Hayworth by 3 points
This is going to be an interesting race. Bill Owens is not well-liked in the district and has not been able to pull above 40% in the polls. However, instead of backing and helping conservative Doug Hoffman, the area Republicans introduced a potential spoiler in Matt Doheny. Matt Doheny emerged victorious in a close primary contest and Doug Hoffman did the honorable thing, dropping a third party run and backing Doheny. Although Tea Party leader Mark Barie has decided to back Doheny, many other Hoffman supporters are not convinced. I know, because I frequently get emails from the disaffected. The polls bear this story as well, as Matt Doheny has made some headway, but struggled to bring Hoffman supporters into the fold. He's moved from 35% to 37% in the last weeks, but there is still a large number of Hoffman supporters still backing Hoffman (about 10%), Hoffman's name is on the ballot though he dropped out, and no one can predict where those votes will swing.
Will Doug Hoffman supporters back Matt Doheny? My guess is yes. Enough Hoffman supporters will see the possibility of sending a message to Obama as too enticing to pass up.
Prediction: Matt Doheny by 2 points
If you haven't noticed a trend in the Siena polling above, but Upstate NY undecided voters are leaning Republican as Election Day neared. NY-20 swung 26 points, NY-23 by two and the last poll on NY-24 had Richard Hanna surge by 5. I would strongly suggest that this momentum will continue into today and Richard Hanna will emerge victorious in a close contest.
How much have undecided voters swung toward Republicans?
Richard Hanna by 2 points
With the five top seats covered, we move into the districts where there are too many questions to make a prediction, but there are clear reasons why these seats could swing in the Republican's favor and NY-1 is such a district.
Early January Republican polling showed Democrat Tim Bishop in danger and a nasty primary contest produced Randy Altschuler as Bishop's challenger. A poll from nearly a month ago showed Bishop with a 12 point lead. However, a very recent internal poll from Randy Altschuler is showing only a 2 points lead going into Election Day.
Can Randy Altschuler rise above the messy three-way primary battle that he won? Are undecided voters leaning Republican on Long Island (no polling to evidence)?
Most political analysts did not envision Democrat Dan Maffei as a seat in jeopardy and a month old poll showed Maffei with a 12 point lead. However, Buerkle's pollster had the race as close as one point, the seat has traditionally swung Republican and had an even split voter registration between Democrats and Republicans. Also, the seat is located in the heart of Upstate and as I pointed out, undecided voters are moving toward the Republican column.
This race has all the anecdotal evidence of an upset election, just no data.
NY-13 encompasses Staten Island and the seat has swung Republican in the past. Democrat Mike McMahon is only a single term incumbent and McMahon had an earlier scandal on his hands, when the press found a list of voting demographics likely to vote Grimm. The list detailed how the Jew Vote was leaning for Grimm. It might be just enough to catapult Grimm into the lead.
You known that Democrat Maurice Hinchey is in a safe district because he really shouldn't be anywhere near winning this race. At a recent debate event he assaulted a reporter. He didn't debate very well either, acknowledging that he didn't know what deficit reduction was and going on a tirade of a conspiracy on how George Bush had let Osama Bin Laden escape so he could invade Iraq.
George Phillips on the other hand is an excellent, articulate candidate. He should be winning this race in a blow-out, but gerrymandering may have its way.
Will NY-22 finally realize that Maurice Hinchey is off his rocker? Will George Phillips benefit from the Upstate undecided swing that we are seeing in other races?
Most expect Democrat Steve Israel to win re-election against John Gomez. There has been no polling to tout how the landscape of the race is swinging. However, Long Island had a surprise Republican victory during the November 2009 elections and so political watchers expect a possible upset this election cycle too. The money is on Randy Altschuler, but John Gomez is also a strong candidate.
Will there be another November surprise from Long Island voters?
I'm probably the only person in the world that would add NY-27 to their list of potential Republican victories. Democrat Brian Higgins is well known and insulated, while Leonard Roberto has been largely under funded and unknown. However, Cook Political Report has NY-27's PVI at only D+4 and Roberto could get a huge top of the ticket bump from Carl Paladino who is leading Cuomo in Erie County by 20 points. If there is going to be a left-field, no one saw this coming victory, it could be NY-27.
How big can Paladino bump?
Big Outstanding Questions for Tonight
Republicans aren't really close on the state-wide races, will this hurt congressional candidates in close races?
However, Democrats cakewalk statewide elections may not deliver voters to the polls?
Will Long Island produce a November surprise?
How much will undecided voters lean Republican?
Will Paladino help or hurt Republicans and which races?