NY-22 Minute: Trump Presidency Key to Congressional Race By Luke Perry
Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi declared his candidacy for Congress this morning in NY-22. Brindisi constitutes a formidable challenger to first term incumbent Claudia Tenney.
Tenney is more of a Tea Party Republican in a moderately conservative district, who benefited from Trump’s populism during the campaign. The question is how long this will last. Tenney has proven herself a savvy and experienced political talent, effectively adapting to shifting circumstances throughout her career. Navigating her relationship with the Trump presidency will be Tenney's biggest challenge to date.
On the surface this may seem simple. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district, where Trump won every county. At the same time, Trump entered the White House less popular than any other president elect and was the least popular modern president at the 100 day mark. Currently, an aggregate total of numerous polls show that just 38 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance and 61 percent think the country is headed in the wrong direction.
This is not strong footing for GOP representatives heading into the 2018 midterms when the president’s party typically loses seats. On top of that, Republicans have done little with the unprecedented power they currently control. Healthcare, for instance, has become a no win proposition as they will either renege on a seven year promise to repeal Obamacare or pass something that reneges on the president’s pledge to not cut Medicaid and results in over 20 million people losing insurance coverage.
The good news for Tenney is that Republicans have largely stuck with the president. 80 percent approve of his job performance. The bad news is that self-described independents have significantly fallen off. Just 40 percent approve of the president. While incumbents have a clear advantage in House races- 97 percent were reelected in 2016 -these numbers do provide an opening for Brindisi.
Tenney won by 7 points last fall with right leaning, third party candidate Martin Babinec winning 12 percent of the vote. If Babinec runs again, the race between Tenney and Brindisi will be very close. If he doesn’t, Brindisi will have a chance to win over his supporters. This, coupled with increased Democratic turnout and decreased Republican turnout, could make things interesting.
NY-22 is more favorable toward Trump than the country at large, but the key is still what the roughly 20 percent of displeased Republicans and 60 percent of displeased independents will do: stay home, vote party lines, or vote for Brindisi. Winning elections is a numbers contest. A lot will happen over the next year, but this is where the game begins.
For comprehensive coverage of the House race in NY-22 read the NY-22 Minute by Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry), Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College.