New York State of Mind Still Not Republican

It’s apparently a New York state of mind, but even Billy Joel wouldn’t want to take credit for it at this point. In many ways, the Empire State is currently a perfect microcosm of the nation’s political mood. Democrats in 2008, having already secured the governor’s mansion, not only improved their majority position in the state assembly but finished the hat trick by seizing control of the senate for the first time in the living memory of many voters.

And in another mirror of the national pulse, after less than a year of this hopeful change, the natives have shot straight past restless and into full-blown panic.

Siena Research Institute this week concluded one of their deepest polls into the attitudes and preferences of New Yorkers this year. The crosstabs brought forth some results which should send many a public servant looking for work in the private sector.

Fifty-seven percent told Siena that the state was “on the wrong track,” 90 percent described the state’s fiscal condition as either “fair” or “poor,” and either solid majorities or strong pluralities felt that their political leaders had less integrity and were less fair than those of decades past. In one of the least reported but possibly most alarming statistics, 41 percent indicated that they would like to move out of the state, either in the near future or for their retirement.

In a climate such as this, one might suppose that a slate of GOP candidates would be standing ready for 2010, each with a single television buy which simply says: "So … how’s that Democratic majority working out for ya?" But with New York being New York, things are never quite that simple.

With Governor David Paterson’s approval ratings in the low 30s and only 15 percent saying they would choose him in 2010, the voters still don’t seem to feel they put the wrong party in power -- they simply have the wrong Democrat. Seventy percent hold a favorable opinion of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, son of former Governor Mario. He swamps the two most frequently mentioned potential Republican contenders -- Rick Lazio and Chris Collins -- by fifty points each. (Lazio, my personal favorite, continues to hold the title of “best GOP candidate you’ve never heard of,” with 21 percent approving of him, 22 percent disapproving, and 57 percent saying they either didn’t know who he was or didn’t know enough to form an opinion.)

Not all of the news was grim for Republicans, though. When you bring "America’s mayor" Rudy Giuliani into the picture, the numbers soften up a bit. He still currently loses to Cuomo in a hypothetical, head-to-head match-up, but the gap narrows to 13 percent. Will Rudy run? Newsday is reporting that he’s “mulling the idea over” and he’s made some very patriotic statements about being willing to serve if the needs of New York demand it, but the article also reminds us that Rudy loves grabbing headlines to boost his own private business endeavors. Plus, every publisher in the Big Apple keeps a boilerplate article on hand at all times about Giuliani running for this or that office. He loves to tease us, but there’s simply no telling what he will do.