Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Gillibrand Dilemma

The situation of Democratic Sen. Kristen Gillibrand offers a microcosm of certain obstacles the GOP still faces for 2010. Her approval rating:
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s approval rating needs a jumpstart. Only 27% of registered voters in New York State think Gillibrand is doing either an excellent or good job in office. This includes 3% who say she is excelling and 24% who believe she is doing a good job. 37% rate New York’s junior senator as fair, and 14% say she is performing poorly. More than one-fifth — 22% — are unsure.
Sounds like an incumbent ripe for a loss, right?

Not quite. Polls show Gillibrand trouncing her likely Republican opponents. Yeah, voters aren't exactly wild about her (many are outright unsure), but Republicans have so far not been able to benefit from the lack of enthusiasm. New York has a Democratic lean, but GOP candidates for governor have been quite successful there, and Republican Al D'Amato did serve as senator from 1981 to 1999. There no reason why a Republican can't win the Senate seat there.

Voter unhappiness (and voters are plenty unhappy) with the status quo is not enough to guarantee Republican control of the House or Senate. The voters of PA-12 weren't exactly Obamamaniacs. But that wasn't enough for the Republican to win. New York voters may not love Gillibrand. But that may not be enough for the Republican to win, either.

Politics is still partly a local game, and the details of individual candidates and messages matter---a lot. Waging hundreds of affirmative campaigns across the country will be key for Republican success in the fall.

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