State legislation enacted last year moved up the date of New York’s presidential primary to the first week of February, a month earlier than it had been held. The move was widely seen as an effort by the bipartisan political establishment to help a favorite son and daughter running for president — Rudolph Giuliani for Republicans and Hillary Clinton for Democrats.
Whether that works remains to be seen, but the change does make New York part of “Super” or “Super Duper” Tuesday on Feb. 5, when it and 23 other states will hold primaries or caucuses, in all likelihood deciding the presidential nominations for both parties. In general elections, candidates typically ignore the state except for fundraising because it is reliably Democratic if the national contest is close. But in this year’s primaries, with the race still open in both parties, what New York voters do will matter.
“The word came down that Giuliani was the man,” said J. Christopher Callaghan, the bow-tied former Saratoga County treasurer who was the Republican candidate for state comptroller in 2006.
“But,” he continued, “I don’t think he has the credentials that McCain has,” so he did not follow the party leadership’s signals to back Giuliani.
Callaghan was speaking last week from South Carolina, where he spent several days campaigning for the Republican presidential campaign of Arizona Sen. John McCain. Earlier this month, he spent about 10 days in New Hampshire, helping McCain win the primary there.
Callaghan is also a McCain delegate in New York. But New York’s Republican establishment, from Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, on down, is lined up behind Giuliani.
Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, is a Giuliani delegate, even though he differs with the candidate on the abortion issue. Farley’s anti-abortion voting record would seem to line up with the positions of the other Republican candidates, including McCain, and not with the pro-choice Giuliani.
Asked about this, Farley pointed out that Giuliani has shifted somewhat on the issue, now supporting a Supreme Court decision upholding a ban on a form of late-term abortion, and vowing to appoint “strict constructionist” judges. “That’s a good flip-flop,” Farley said, while also saying “there are other issues,” and that Giuliani had a good record as mayor of New York City.
Any of the Republicans would be better than any of the Democrats, Farley said, but Giuliani is the most electable in November. And, he said, Giuliani could help bring out voters who would also back Republican state senators, helping the party defeat the anticipated vigorous Democratic campaign to capture the Senate majority this year.
Callaghan said he appreciates McCain’s honesty, even though it may have caused him to lose the Michigan primary to Mitt Romney. When McCain said some auto industry jobs wouldn’t be coming back, he lost votes there, Callaghan said.
In the New York presidential primary, the other Republicans on the ballot and with delegates in local congressional districts include antiwar candidate Ron Paul, who has been running radio ads in the Capital Region, Romney, Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson.
While Giuliani was leading national polls last year, the lead now has gone to McCain, who is expected to make a serious effort in New York. Callaghan said, however, that McCain may not make it to upstate, given the demands on his time before the multistate elections on Feb. 5.
The McCain campaign reportedly has opened call centers in Albany, Buffalo and Manhattan.
Giuliani had been far ahead in New York polls taken before the actual voting in other states got under way this year. A more recent SurveyUSA poll showed Giuliani up by 3 percentage points over McCain. A new Siena Research Institute poll of the New York primary races is due out Monday.
On the Democratic side, Clinton, New York’s junior U.S. senator, has held on to her lead in the national polls but is being strongly challenged by Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. Clinton remains well ahead of Obama in New York polls.
No other Democratic candidates, including John Edwards, have delegates in local congressional districts. The Democratic delegates appear on the ballot, as do the candidates, in what the state Board of Elections describes as a “dual primary.” The Republican delegates will not be on the ballot, but will go to the party convention if their candidate wins a plurality in the winner-take-all primary.
Clinton was endorsed last year by every statewide elected official in New York, and by many other elected leaders, including Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton. They say she would be in a position as president to help the state and local communities. Stratton is an alternate delegate for Clinton in the 21st Congressional District. Her delegate slate in the district also includes the leaders of the rival factions in Albany Democratic politics, Mayor Jerry Jennings and County Executive Mike Breslin.
supporter of obama
Sen. Bill Perkins, D-Manhattan, is one of the few New York elected officials to endorse Obama. He said the Obama campaign is opening an office in Manhattan and two in Brooklyn, and “more than likely is going to be spending money on media” in New York. The overwhelming majority of Democratic primary voters are in the New York City area, where the campaigns will likely be focused.
Blake Zeff, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, said the candidate would campaign in New York, but it has not yet been decided whether she needs to advertise. Clinton does, however, have 20,000 volunteers signed up to work in the state, Zeff said.
Momentum is a key factor, Perkins said. If Obama wins other states in coming days and weeks, he said, he could win New York, too, and clinch the nomination on Feb. 5. “Right now, she [Clinton] is still the favorite” here, Perkins acknowledged. But momentum has been hard to come by so far in either party, as different candidates have come out on top in different states.
Some presidential candidates who will be on the New York ballot have already dropped out of the race, such as Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Duncan Hunter.
focus on florida
Giuliani has come nowhere close to winning any state in voting thus far. He is pinning his hopes on winning the Jan. 29 Florida primary. “He’s the steamroller,” joked Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, a Giuliani supporter. His candidate still has a chance of winning Florida and getting momentum from it for the Feb. 5 races, Tedisco said, but “that’s going to be a heavy lift for him.”
Also flirting with presidential runs are potential independent candidates, including New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, a billionaire who could fund his own campaign. CNN cable news star and illegal-immigration foe Lou Dobbs is another potential candidate. Tedisco, who was a regular on Dobbs’ show last year, said he might have given him the idea to run.
Callaghan, who is thinking about running for Congress this year, said that decision is on the back burner. Referring to the presidential race, he said: “This is more important.”
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