Is NEW YORK a Battleground State Now?

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

I have my doubts, as any sane person should. Biden won New York by 23 points in 2020 and Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1, but New York Democrats are sounding the alarm. Trump is getting into striking distance according to their internal polls. 


There have been signs of political movement in the state, despite the Democrats controlling the two chambers of the legislature and the governor's mansion. Hochul won by only 6 points and Republicans flipped House seats that nobody expected would be at risk. 

But the last time a Republican took New York's electoral votes was Reagan's massive victory in 1984--forty years ago. It would be a political earthquake registering 10.0 on the Richter scale to have the state go Republican, especially for Donald Trump. 

On the other hand, could anybody BUT Trump make the state competitive? He is so offbeat a Republican that he grabs attention in a way that a John McCain or a Mitt Romney never could. They seemed to be generic Republicans to liberals, while Trump is totally unique. 

Now Democrats want Biden to get serious about the Empire State as they warn of the existential crisis to democracy posed by Trump’s potential return to the White House, according to interviews with 10 Democratic Party officials, consultants and political leaders.

A contested race in New York exacerbates Biden’s reelection troubles as members of his party continue to call for him to step aside or question his fitness for office — including two members of the state’s House delegation. And it would cost him time and money he’d rather be spending on the country’s six swing states, siphoning millions of dollars to play in the costliest media market in the country.

“The money that needs to be spent here will be subtracted from other areas he’s going to lose,” former Democratic New York Gov. David Paterson said.


Before you get too excited, one of the games that local politicians play is trying to freak out the Washington crowd. It is a way to get money diverted to their state, juicing local operations, helping Congressional candidates who otherwise would get no notice, and helping to build the electoral infrastructure with outside money so that the funds the local party raises can be spent elsewhere. 

I've seen it done both ways--arguing that a deep Blue state might be in play for Republicans, drawing money that might go elsewhere. Local parties on both sides of the aisle love the money coming in, not to mention the TV stations that make bank. 

Biden aides have not focused on New York, committing no significant resources to a state where they expect the president to easily win all 28 electoral college votes in November.

But the warning signs are impossible to ignore and have been building over the past year. Two private polls conducted in a swing New York House district and reviewed by POLITICO — one in September and another in March — found former President Donald Trump leading Biden there by 1 point, a virtual tie. And public polls over the last four months found Biden’s lead had winnowed to just 8 points across New York — an unusually narrow gap in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1.

“We’re still acting like this is a one-party state, which for pretty much 20, 25 years it has been,” Democratic Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said. “I truly believe we’re a battleground state now.”

Biden, whose campaign is in free fall after a shambling debate performance last month, is yet to pay much attention to the state beyond high-dollar fundraisers. He was most recently in New York on June 29 to raise money in the Hamptons and attend a dedication ceremony for the Stonewall Inn Visitor Center in Manhattan a day earlier. He has been appearing in traditional battleground states, including Wisconsin and Pennsylvania over the weekend, as the 81-year-old tries to silence doubts over his age and mental acuity.


Still, 8 points really is striking distance, especially given that I don't think we have seen Biden's floor of support yet. Already that puts marginal seats in play, and if Republicans pick up seats in New York, a majority in the House of Representatives is out of reach for Democrats. 

Democrats are already pretty sure that the majority is now just a mirage after Biden's performance. 

If you had told people 4 months ago that Trump could win the presidential election in a landslide, or that Deep Blue states would ever be considered legitimate swing states, people would have laughed at you. 

Now, Democrat senators are saying it. 

Will states like New York, Colorado, or California be in play? 


It seems doubtful. I do doubt it. 

But it is no longer outside the realm of possibility. 

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