But his unpopularity and Democrats’ struggles nationally have funneled down to a state he won by 23 points in 2020. This has put Republicans in a surprisingly strong position in New York.
I’m not just talking about the gubernatorial race, where Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul is in a close contest with Republican Lee Zeldin. I’m talking about the fact that Republicans could win enough seats to take back the US House majority from New York alone.
The Cook Political Report, for example, lists five Democratic-held House seats as competitive (i.e., leaning toward one party or a toss-up). The Republicans, of course, need a net gain of five seats to win control of the chamber.
No seat may be more illustrative of Democrats’ problems in New York than the 17th Congressional District. It’s in the Lower Hudson Valley but within the New York City metropolitan area. Biden would have won the district under its current lines by 10 points in 2020.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who leads House Democrats’ campaign arm, decided to run for this seat instead of the more Republican 18th District after redistricting. In doing so, he essentially forced Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones to abandon the district, a version of which he currently represents. In other words, Maloney chose this district because he thought he’d have an easier time winning it.
But the political trends over the past month in the 17th District have favored his Republican opponent, state Assemblyman Mike Lawler. An average of Cook Political Report and Inside Elections data shows that what started as a race likely to be won by Maloney became 15 days ago a race only leaning toward him and has now turned into something akin to a toss-up contest.
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Maloney’s problems make sense when you consider what’s going on nationally and statewide. Republicans have been gaining ground on the generic congressional ballot, which usually asks respondents some form of the following question: “If the elections for Congress were held today, would you vote for the Democratic or Republican party?” What was a slight Democratic advantage on this measure last month is now tilting toward the Republicans.
And voters statewide (including in the New York City suburbs) are more worried about crime and inflation – issues that favor Republicans – than others.
Democrats’ difficulties also fit with what we’ve seen historically. Although New York is normally thought of as a blue state, it tends to swing with the nation in waves.
In 2006, Democrats netted 3 House seats in New York on their way to reclaiming the chamber majority.
In 2010, Republicans netted 6 House seats in the Empire State on their way to a majority nationally.
In 2018, Democrats took back the House in part because they netted 3 seats in New York.
The bottom line is that if there is a Republican wave nationally in 2022 – which seems to be a strong possibility – we’ll likely see it in New York.