There are precisely 45 days left until the exciting conclusion to the New York State Democratic Party primary race for governor. Going by the adoring coverage being offered in local media around the state, you’d think that Governor Andrew Cuomo was in the fight of his political life, attempting to stave off the populist challenge of newly minted Democratic Socialist and former Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon. Of course, as we’ve covered here on multiple occasions, the polls don’t really portray any sort of tight race at all. But who are you going to believe… a bunch of bean counters at Real Clear Politics or your own lying eyes? Nixon was out on the stump again this weekend warning everyone that they are underestimating her and this campaign could catch fire in the public imagination any… day… now… (New York Times)
If Ms. Nixon’s goal feels more plausible in the Trump era — if a reality television star can be president, why can’t a worldly and accomplished actor run a state? — it is also more complicated. Many Democrats see the nation’s government-by-celebrity experiment as a disaster, compelling Ms. Nixon to sell a liberal mass audience on her most challenging role to date: the well-chosen celebrity, the one who can do it right.
“I think I’m being underestimated,” she said. “I think the campaign itself is being underestimated.”…
“Both the media and the Democratic establishment, they’re not quite getting this moment that we’re in,” Ms. Nixon said, “and how hungry people are for a change.”
The “moment” that Nixon seems to feel the media is missing revolves around not just liberal hatred of Donald Trump, but a growing rejection of establishment Democratic politics and Clintonian triangulation. (Something she accuses Cuomo of practicing.) Her hopes are still buoyed by the Ocasio-Cortez victory in the Bronx, where nobody saw the challenger’s victory over the incumbent coming.
I suppose that’s true to a certain extent. Lightning doesn’t always strike twice, but it can happen. Still, nobody was really polling that race all that seriously because Joe Crowley wasn’t supposed to be in any trouble and it was only one of many congressional primary races going on at the time. The problem for Nixon is that experienced polling firms have been running surveys on her race, though infrequently and likely only because of her celebrity status.
We just had another Quinnipiac poll of this primary a week ago. It was the first one they had run since May when Nixon was losing badly. The numbers have indeed changed since then, but only to show that she’s doing even more badly. Cuomo has a 59/23 lead overall and there isn’t a single demographic slice where he’s losing or really even close to it. Cuomo rings up 58% with women and 60% with men. He’s near 70% with minority voters. Even in the upstate region where Andrew Cuomo is far, far less popular, he’s still beating Nixon 52/30.
Not to pop anyone’s balloon here, because I’d really enjoy seeing Andrew Cuomo taken out in a surprise victory, but I don’t think anyone is “underestimating” Nixon’s campaign at all. Nobody is sleepwalking through this race the way they were with Crowley’s primary. Cuomo isn’t taking her for granted and is out campaigning all the time. The press is all over the story. Pundits and pollsters are on top of it. If there’s some secret 40 point surge for Nixon waiting in the wings it would simply be one of the most stunning failures of political analysis in the history of the country.
But it’s not. These numbers are real. Cynthia Nixon is a bright flame that attracts the media like moths, but there’s simply nothing going on under the covers here that’s going to put her in the Governor’s mansion.