Foss: Gillibrand presidential bid off to poor start

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) at a news conference on sexual harassment training in Washington on Nov. 15, 2017.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) at a news conference on sexual harassment training in Washington on Nov. 15, 2017.

Kirsten Gillibrand is in trouble. 

I won’t go so far as to say that her nascent campaign for president is dead in the water — at least not just yet. 

But it’s definitely on life support, and it’s getting more and more difficult by the day to see New York’s junior senator catching fire with voters. 

Not long after Gillibrand announced her presidential campaign, I wrote that I considered her a long-shot, but wouldn’t count her out. 

In a crowded field with no clear favorite, I believed she had the potential to distinguish herself with Democratic voters in early primary and caucus states such as New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina. 

Since then, I’ve been waiting in vain for a sign that Gillibrand will catch on with voters. 

Instead, she’s been flailing, falling to the bottom of early polls. 

And an explosive new Politico report suggests that her strong stands against sexual misconduct and sexual harassment don’t always extend to her inner circle — to her own office and staff. 

A just-released Monmouth University poll, for instance, found that fewer than 1 percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters said they supported Gillibrand’s candidacy. 

That puts her level of support below that of New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio, who is rumored to be interested in running for president but hasn’t declared, and former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, whose name recognition among voters is almost non-existent. 

It’s worth remembering that, when this whole process began, Gillibrand was viewed as a top-tier candidate. 

That she finds herself struggling to tread water with other barely afloat candidates such as Hawaii senator Tulsi Gabbard and author Marianne Williamson doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. 

The polling data is bad, and it could get worse. 

It’s tough to gauge the impact of the Politico story, published Monday, that reports that a former Gillibrand aide resigned in protest last year over the senator’s handling of a sexual harassment complaint in her office.

I don’t know whether the aide’s story is true, and I’m not sure it matters. 

The Politico story makes Gillibrand, who has sought to distinguish herself as a fierce advocate for women and was the first Democratic senator to call for former senator Al Franken’s resignation when allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced, look like a giant hypocrite. 

According to a New York Times article, Gillibrand’s office investigated the aide’s claim “and kept the worker on staff but dismissed him last week after Politico presented new details about the allegations to her Senate office.” 

That’s a response that smacks of opportunism and panic, and it’s not going to sit well with Democrats voters.

Whether it proves fatal to Gillibrand’s campaign remains to be seen. 

Of course, Gillibrand’s campaign was floundering before this article came out. 

Last week, the New York Times noted that Gillibrand doesn’t have any endorsements from her home state, which is, well, let’s just say that it’s unusual. 

“Even John Delaney, the former Maryland congressman running a long-shot bid for president, has the support of a House member from his home state,” the article reports. 

It adds, “It’s not that Ms. Gillibrand and her aides have not been trying. This week, she invited the full New York delegation to her Washington home next Wednesday for drinks. It’s just that no endorsements have materialized so far.” 

So long as Gillibrand remains at the bottom of polls, no New York politician is going to go out on a limb and endorse her. 

All in all, it’s been a pretty disastrous start to Gillibrand’s campaign — and I don’t see a lot of hope for improvement. 

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.    

Categories: Opinion

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