If you’re a Republican in New York, the Democrat’s name is always the same – Goliath.
In a state with a 2-to-1 Democrat enrollment advantage, every Republican gubernatorial candidacy is a longshot.
Victory is possible, but not likely.
Which makes picking your David all the more important.
Which gets us to the looming Republican primary. Next Tuesday, New York Republicans will select their candidate for governor from a field comprised of Congressman Lee Zeldin, former County Executive Rob Astorino, rich guy Harry Wilson and famous son Andrew Giuliani.
Let’s handicap them, in reverse order.
Though a nice young man of evident talent, if Andrew Giuliani’s last name was Smith, he’d be polling at zero-point-zero. He is in this race – just like he was in the Trump Administration – because of who his dad is. And who you think his dad is determines his political prospects. If you think of Rudy Giuliani as America’s mayor, that’s good for Andrew. If you think of Rudy Giuliana as Trump’s wingman, that’s bad for Andrew.
And as time passes, the percentage of people who think well of Rudy shrinks, and the percentage of people who think poorly of Rudy – especially in Democrat New York – grows. Being the crazy kid who disrupted Rudy’s inauguration a generation ago, or the 45th president’s favorite golfing partner, aren’t exactly qualifications sought by New York voters.
So Andrew doesn’t get the nod. Expect to hear more from him politically in the future – from Florida, if he’s smart.
Harry Wilson is the (insert name here) rich guy in this race. To the great benefit of television advertising salespeople, rich people with large egos like to run for elective office. That’s Harry Wilson. Nice guy, good presentation, snowball’s chance in hell of winning.
But he has been a great blessing to the ad budgets of broadcast outlets all across the Empire State.
Rob Astorino ran for governor once before – against Andrew Cuomo, eight painful years ago – and did a good job. Astorino is a broadcaster by profession and it shows. He communicates effectively, comfortably and well, and has a friendly, engaging spirit. I like him. In my fantasy draft two years ago, he was my pick for governor.
In that same draft, I had Marc Molinaro as my back up.
Which brings us to Lee Zeldin.
If you were writing Lee Zeldin’s Army Reserve officer evaluation report, you would not give him high marks for command presence. He can give a good speech, and pound the lectern when he has to, but he doesn’t light up a room. He’s not the easily discernible alpha in a crowd.
But when it comes to command initiative, the ability to formulate and execute strategic and tactical plans, Lee Zeldin starts to glow in the dark.
Well, back when everybody was smoking and joking about how much Andrew Cuomo sucked, daydreaming about what could be in 2022, Lee Zeldin was not only imagining that he could be the guy to take Cuomo down, he was actively engaged in making it happen. A year before any other Republican thought to move, he launched a statewide effort to become the candidate.
It was audacious.
But, as Barack Obama showed, audacity and hope can go a long way.
Lee Zeldin was low profile and second tier, struggling to rise to Supporting Actor in the Albany and D.C. credits. He was the no-name who no one took particularly seriously.
Kind of like George Pataki.
And while others sat on their haunches, Lee Zeldin was on the hustings. County after county, handshake after handshake, month after month.
He was some kid fishing around in the brook for smooth stones, putting them in his pouch.
Others were strapping on the armor of traditional politics, waiting their turn and for the turning of the calendar page.
And before they even got launched, Lee Zeldin had won over the county chairmen and the state chairman and pretty much everyone who had come out to meet him. He knew that he who ran first and best would be the one selected for November battle. In that, he made the correct strategic decision, and all other potential contenders made the incorrect strategic decision.
That made him the smart guy, and the rest of them the dumb guy.
If campaigns are dress rehearsals for governing, Lee Zeldin’s superior conduct of his campaign offers an insight into his governing capabilities. The candidate who can out think and out flank the opposition is the candidate you want sitting in the big chair.
David wasn’t the smart choice to fight Goliath, but he was the right choice. His weakness was his strength. His unique daring and battle plan were met with scorn, until they worked.
Lee Zeldin was dismissed for campaigning so early.
Until it worked.
And here he sits, on the eve of the primary, up 2-to-1 over his closest competitor.
That ought to cheer the Republican faithful.
And it ought to scare Goliath.