By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff
What’s worse than being an appointed senator, selected by an unelected governor? Perhaps, it’s being an appointed senator, selected by a very unpopular, unelected governor. Want to turn the crank again? How about an appointed senator, selected by a very unpopular, unelected governor following a messy selection process…and you can throw in Caroline Kennedy, pro-gun control views, and Upstate New York status for extra effect. Doesn’t this spell political trouble?
The latest Marist Poll of New Yorkers confirms how all this translates electorally. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s approval rating is rock bottom at 19%. How have things changed since she relocated from the House to the Senate? Not much. In Marist’s March Poll, 18% liked the job Senator Gillibrand was doing. As her “unsures” dropped from 50% then to 43% in Marist’s May survey, her approval rating clearly did not materially improve.
Should Senator Gillibrand be discounted from the 2010 senatorial horserace? Not by any means. Odds may be long but she has a better chance than the 50 to 1 upset winner in the Kentucky Derby and certainly, a filly winning the Preakness for the first time since 1924 cannot be overlooked. Here’s why.
If you allow me one more equestrian metaphor, reference the Breeder’s Guide. Gillibrand is no political novice. She has strong ties to the Albany political machine. Also, she demonstrated excellent vote getting ability in winning a congressional seat in territory typically hostile to Democrats…and then was re-elected overwhelmingly. She’s a proven fund-raiser…with a high energy campaigning style. Senator Schumer is firmly in her corner. Former President Bill Clinton has held a fund-raiser for her. The White House has convinced one of her potential primary opponents, Congressman Steve Israel, to rethink his 2010 plans. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has also decided not to throw his hat into the ring. She has garnered the endorsement of NARAL. Most importantly, in this very blue state, no GOPer has stepped forward despite poll numbers that are encouraging to former Governor George Pataki.
So, what should be Senator Gillibrand’s biggest fear to winning this seat in her own right? A primary challenge from the left could disrupt her plans. But, it appears that individual must come to the table with mega-bucks. Traditional fund-raising doors may already be closing for such an effort.