It's not all that crazy to think Cynthia Nixon could be the next New York governor

Cynthia Nixon is taking on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is a clear favorite to win his primary in September....

Posted: Mar 21, 2018 2:55 PM
Updated: Mar 21, 2018 2:55 PM

Cynthia Nixon is taking on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is a clear favorite to win his primary in September.

Less than 4% of governors running for reelection have lost their primary since 1970 and Cuomo holds a 66% to 19% lead over Nixon in a Siena College poll released this week but conducted before Nixon officially announced.

Still, I couldn't help but wonder... does Nixon have a shot?

The answer is yes: She has a chance to make a strong showing (certainly better than what Siena's poll showed) and there's even a small chance of victory.

Cuomo had a weak primary performance in a primary four years ago. He defeated relative unknown Zephyr Teachout, but she scored a little over 33% of the vote. That's about tied with Mary Anne Krupsak in 1978 for the strongest challenge ever to an incumbent New York governor since the primary system was established in the state in 1970. Teachout did so despite raising little money and having basically no name recognition at the beginning of the campaign. Krupsak, on the other hand, was the sitting lieutenant governor when she ran.

Nixon, of course, starts out in a very different boat. She'll likely be able to raise a lot more money than Teachout ever did. Nixon will have better name recognition. She looks to have the support of some of New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio's allies, even if not from the mayor himself (De Blasio and Cuomo have a long simmering feud). Nixon campaigned heavily for de Blasio in 2013. Having ties to him could be key because he is popular among New York City Democrats, and the city itself made up a little more than 50% of the 2016 Democratic presidential primary vote.

And keep in mind, Cuomo's popularity is actually somewhat lower now than it was in 2014. He had a 75% favorable rating among registered Democrats in New York in July 2014. It's 67% in the latest Siena poll.

Second, the early polling numbers don't necessarily mean as much as you might think they do. Just 40% of New York Democrats have any opinion of Nixon at this point. (I wouldn't be surprised if the true percentage was even lower given the way Siena asks the question.) For comparison, 92% of New York Democrats have an opinion of Cuomo right now. Cuomo's 66% of the vote against Nixon is merely a reflection on Cuomo's own favorable rating of 67%.

During the primary campaign don't be surprised if Nixon gains ground and Cuomo falls as we get closer to the election.

Consider the 2006 Connecticut Senate Democratic primary. That year, Sen. Joe Lieberman held a 65% to 19% advantage over Ned Lamont just three months before the primary. (New York's 2018 gubernatorial primary isn't until September.) Lieberman's 65% of the vote in the poll was nearly to the 60% of Democrats who approved of the job he was doing. Lamont, like Nixon, was a relative unknown among most of the electorate.

Lamont though began airing advertisements and picked up steam. He was able to go after Lieberman for being too conservative and for voting for the Iraq War, which was perfect for Democratic voters in a year in which they were very upset with the war and Republican President George W. Bush. Lieberman's approval rating dropped 13 percentage points just before the primary, and Lamont's name recognition grew by about by 40 percentage points.

The end result is Lamont won a primary by 4 points that he once trailed in by over 40 percentage points.

Now, in no way am I saying that Nixon will follow Lamont's path to victory. But Lamont's eventual victory is a cautionary tale for anyone who reads too much into early primary polls. It's not crazy to think that Nixon could rally liberals (who made up 66% of 2016 primary voters) to her side given that a majority of Democrats think Cuomo is moderate or conservative. Like Lamont, she'll probably have the help of some liberal outside groups who have been angry at Cuomo for any number of reasons, including at one time, enabling a working Republican majority in the state senate.

It is plausible that Nixon is able to win a good chunk of these liberal Democrats along with some upstate Democrats who Cuomo struggled with in 2014. Such a coalition would at least close the gap and perhaps make her competitive.

Such a path to victory isn't likely, though those who think that a celebrity cannot win a major election, should look at who is in the White House.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 15229

Reported Deaths: 723
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds99925
Lauderdale73561
Madison72023
Scott65012
Neshoba63038
Jones59825
Forrest55338
DeSoto5337
Rankin4217
Leake42112
Holmes39728
Copiah3104
Jackson30513
Attala29216
Yazoo2734
Newton2714
Leflore25831
Harrison2577
Lincoln25628
Monroe25525
Lamar2355
Oktibbeha23512
Lowndes2119
Pearl River20931
Pike20211
Adams19615
Noxubee1856
Wayne1771
Warren1719
Washington1687
Covington1652
Bolivar16011
Jasper1574
Smith15011
Lee1496
Kemper14411
Clarke14318
Chickasaw13312
Lafayette1314
Coahoma1214
Carroll11711
Marion1159
Clay1124
Winston1121
Claiborne1112
Lawrence1021
Simpson1010
Yalobusha905
Hancock9011
Tate891
Grenada893
Wilkinson889
Itawamba877
Union835
Marshall833
Montgomery831
Sunflower813
Jefferson Davis772
Tippah7311
Panola703
Webster691
Calhoun644
Humphreys607
Amite601
Walthall550
Tunica543
Prentiss523
Perry503
Choctaw432
Jefferson421
Tishomingo320
Pontotoc323
Stone300
Franklin282
Tallahatchie271
Quitman260
George251
Alcorn171
Benton150
Greene121
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 17359

Reported Deaths: 618
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2191115
Jefferson1780102
Montgomery163238
Tuscaloosa73814
Marshall6879
Franklin5457
Lee54033
Shelby50319
Tallapoosa42364
Butler40217
Chambers35325
Walker3442
Elmore3398
Madison3274
Baldwin2839
Dallas2603
Morgan2511
Etowah24811
DeKalb2433
Lowndes23812
Coffee2291
Sumter2206
Autauga2164
Houston2094
Bullock2034
Pike1980
Colbert1782
Russell1670
Marengo1636
Lauderdale1612
Hale1598
Calhoun1543
Choctaw1518
Barbour1501
Wilcox1447
Clarke1422
Cullman1260
Randolph1257
Marion12111
St. Clair1181
Pickens1114
Dale1100
Talladega1093
Chilton1001
Limestone940
Greene944
Winston880
Covington771
Jackson772
Crenshaw763
Macon754
Henry742
Bibb721
Washington686
Blount611
Escambia573
Lawrence480
Geneva400
Conecuh391
Coosa381
Monroe372
Perry370
Cherokee373
Clay272
Lamar230
Fayette150
Cleburne141
Unassigned00
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