President Joe Biden’s visit to Syracuse in deep blue New York on Thursday might seem unusual coming less than two weeks before the midterm elections.
But his unpopularity and Democrats’ struggles nationally have focused on 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 governor’s race, where Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul is in a tight race with Republican Lee Zeldin. I’m talking about the fact that the Republicans can win enough seats from New York alone to regain the majority of the US House.
The Cook Political Report, for example, lists five seats held by Democrats as competitive (ie, leaning toward one party or the draw). Republicans, of course, need a net gain of five seats to gain control of the chamber.
No seat is more representative of Democrats’ problems in New York than the 17th Congressional District. It is located in the Lower Hudson Valley, but in the New York City metropolitan area. Biden would have won the district by 10 points in 2020 under current lines.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who heads the House Democrats’ campaign arm, decided to run for the seat instead of the more Republican 18th District after redistricting. In doing so, he essentially forced Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones to abandon the district, the version he represents today. In other words, Maloney chose this district because he thought it would be easier to win.
But political trends in the 17th District in recent months have favored his Republican challenger, state Assemblyman Mike Lawler. An average of data from the Cook Political Report and Inside Elections shows that what started out as a race Maloney would have won 15 days ago has become something of a toss-up.
Maloney’s problems make sense given what’s going on nationally and in the state. Republicans have been gaining ground in generic congressional polls, and respondents are typically asked the following question: “If congressional elections were held today, would you vote Democratic or Republican?” What was a small Democratic lead on this measure last month is tilting toward Republicans.
And voters across the state (including in the New York City suburbs) are more concerned about crime and inflation—issues that favor Republicans—than others.
The Democrats’ difficulties are also consistent with what we’ve seen historically. Although New York is usually thought of as a blue state, it tends to ride waves with the nation.
In 2006, Democrats gained 3 House seats in New York on their way to regaining the House majority.
In 2010, Republicans gained 6 House seats in the Empire State on their way to a national majority.
In 2018, Democrats took back the House in part because they gained 3 seats in New York.
The bottom line is that if there is a Republican wave nationally in 2022 – which seems a strong possibility – we will likely see it in New York.