Another Deep Blue Governor’s Race Moved to Toss-up

New York’s Kathy Hochul had been leading her opponent Lee Zeldin by double-digits for months. On Saturday, however, the race was moved into the toss-up column.

AP/Mary Altaffer
Republican candidate for New York Governor Congressman Lee Zeldin, with his daughters at the annual Columbus Day Parade. AP/Mary Altaffer

A second gubernatorial race in a deep blue state has shifted from leaning Democrat to a toss-up in a closely watched average of polls, suggesting that the GOP is making further gains in the final weeks before next month’s midterms.

New York’s incumbent Democratic governor, Kathy Hochul, had been leading her opponent, Republican Lee Zeldin, by double-digits for months. On Saturday, however, RealClearPolitics moved the race into the toss-up column. Only about a week ago, RealClearPolitics shifted the race from “likely Democrat” to “leans Democrat.” As recently as August, Ms. Hochul was ahead of Mr. Zeldin by 24 points.

“Our race was just moved to TOSS UP by RealClearNews!” Mr. Zeldin boasted on Twitter on Saturday. “We have just 24 days to go until we FIRE Kathy Hochul & save our state. It’s not too late for Hochul to come out of hiding & do multiple debates with me across New York, starting immediately!”

Most polls still show Ms. Hochul ahead of her opponent and RealClearPolitics still expects her to prevail in the race, but the contest has grown considerably tighter based on the most recent polls. The average of polls managed by RealClearPolitics puts Ms. Hochul ahead of Mr. Zeldin by just over five points.

The shift comes after Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics moved Oregon’s gubernatorial race from a leaning Democratic race to a toss-up. A Republican former minority leader from Oregon’s state house, Christine Drazer, has been leading her Democratic challenger Tina Kotek by single-digits in a state that President Biden carried by 15 points in 2020.

“Democrats have increasing cause for concern” in Oregon, the center’s analyst said in a report on the race. A third-party candidate has complicated the race, but “Beaver State Democrats may also be weighed down by current Governor Kate Brown’s subpar standing: Morning Consult published fresh numbers this week, and Brown continues to be the most unpopular governor in the country.”

President Biden on Saturday concluded a four-day swing around the West Coast with an appearance at a union hall full of Democratic campaign workers aimed at shoring up Ms. Kotek’s chances.

“What a governor does matters,” Mr. Biden told the gathered volunteers. “It matters! It matters, it matters, it matters!”

A poll by the Republican-leaning Rassmussen reports released Friday showed further gains by Republicans in the so-called generic ballot that measures voters’ affinity for one party over the other as opposed to individual candidates. Rassmussen said the GOP lead in the generic ballot has increased to seven percent from four percent during the past week.

Pollster Stephen Kent, of Echelon Insights, said the GOP gains come as the issue of abortion fades in importance among many voters and kitchen-table staples such as inflation and gas prices rise to the forefront. Mr. Kent said Republicans have the edge on those issues.

“It is going to surprise us just how much of a wave it is for Republicans” in November, Mr. Kent said in an appearance on Fox News’ Special Report Saturday. “There was a moment this year, particularly with the Dobbs decision where we thought it was going to get away from them, but there are so many factors — the gas prices, the continued inflation problem — pushing it right back in their direction, and Democrats have been pouring all of their money on a national basis towards promoting the issue of abortion, and it’s just not going to fly.”

In an interview last week, President Obama — who has remained on the sidelines for much of the current cycle — castigated his fellow Democrats for being “buzzkills” and allowing identity politics to become the primary prism through which all policy matters are viewed.

“Sometimes people just want to not feel as if they are walking on eggshells, and they want some acknowledgment that life is messy and that all of us, at any given moment, can say things the wrong way, make mistakes,” Mr. Obama said on the Pod Save America podcast.

Instead of speaking to voters about common interests, Mr. Obama said his party has taken to scolding people with whom they disagree.

“I think where we get into trouble sometimes is where we try to suggest that some groups are more – because they historically have been victimized more – that somehow they have a status that’s different than other people and we’re going around scolding folks if they don’t use exactly the right phrase,” he said. “Or that identity politics becomes the principle lens through which we view our various political challenges.”

The New York Sun

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