NY Governor race tightening, but is Cuomo in danger?

If you happen to be in the greater New York area and have been following the local news, you probably saw some rather dramatic headlines regarding the Governor’s race. After completely blistering Cynthia Nixon in the Democrat Primary, Governor Andrew Cuomo had settled into a very comfortable lead over Republican challenger Marc Molinaro. Cuomo was above 50% and leading the GOP candidate by more than twenty points.

But that was in early September. Six weeks later, a new series of polls have come back showing a definite shift. Cuomo’s lead has literally been cut in half since one month ago. (New York Post)

Two-term Democratic incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s lead over Republican rival Marc Molinaro has shrunk considerably but he’s still comfortably ahead entering Tuesday’s election, a new poll released Sunday reveals.

The Siena College survey shows that 49 percent of likely voters support Cuomo compared to 36 percent for Molinaro — 13 point gap.

Last month, it was Cuomo 50 percent to Molinaro’s 28 percent — a 22 point gap.

That means Cuomo’s lead over Molinaro plummeted by nine points despite the power of incumbency and massively outspending his outgunned GOP opponent during the final weeks of the campaign.

So is this a sign of momentum for the GOP candidate and trouble for Cuomo? I hate to burst anyone’s balloon, but probably not. In fact, we’re seeing a rather typical pattern for New York gubernatorial elections in the modern era. There’s always some flux in the poll numbers throughout the summer and then things tend to settle out to a roughly 15 point edge for the Democrats. Cuomo won his 2014 race 54-40. In 2010 (a big wave year for Republicans) he trounced Carl Paladino 63-34. That one was a bit of an outlier because Paladino was simply a dreadful candidate.

In 2006, Elliot Spitzer (who later left office with the monicker of Client Number 9) also overperformed, winning his race with 65% of the vote. You have to go all the way back to 2002, when the country was still reeling from 9/11 and heading off to war, to find a Republican governor. Even then, George Pataki didn’t clear 50% of the vote but benefitted heavily from an independent candidate who drew 15%, almost entirely from the Democratic base.

On a more average year, the Democrats these days can expect a roughly 15 to 18 percent margin in statewide races in New York. There was some upheaval in the polling over the past couple of months, but where the numbers are sitting right now is pretty much within the margin of error for the status quo of New York politics. So I wouldn’t start planning any victory celebrations for Marc Molinaro. Sorry, guys.

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