STONE COLD IN NEW YORK
If, as many suspect, New York Democratic gubernatorial nominee Carl McCall finishes third to Gov. George Pataki and independent businessman Tom Golisano on election day, look for Rep. Charles Rangel to stir the pot inside the Democratic Party. Rangel hit the roof when told of DNC chair Terry McAuliffe‘s comments to the New York Times that the national party was pulling funds from McCall. (That money, by the way, is headed to Florida and Bill McBride‘s campaign, which after a surge has slipped in the polls in the past week.)
Rangel has hinted to political allies in Harlem that the national party is abandoning McCall, a longtime friend and political ally in New York City, because McCall is African-American, and that he will look for ways to make McAuliffe and the DNC’s life miserable in the aftermath of the November elections. “Six months ago, McAuliffe had given up on Florida,” says a Harlem businessman who has donated to both Republican and Democratic candidates. “Now he’s taking money that we helped raise for our election and giving it to someone else? Do you think he does that if Andy Cuomo is running? Do you think he tells the New York Times about it? I don’t think so.”
McAuliffe’s relationship with the African-American wing of the Democratic Party has been an uneasy one. He has quietly cut many ties the party had with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, using him less and less on the campaign trail. He also refused a request from Georgia’s Rep. Cynthia McKinney that the party block the primary challenge to he re-election. Many inside the Congressional Black Caucus blame the DNC for McKinney’s landslide defeat. As well, throughout this campaign cycle, McAuliffe has avoided linking his party to prospective presidential candidate, the Rev. Al Sharpton. When the DNC held a “get out the vote” rally in New York City earlier this year, Sharpton was noticeably excluded from the speaker list.
But some of the criticism doesn’t hold. McAuliffe was one of the party people who pressed pal Bill Clinton into pushing Cuomo out of the race, giving McCall a clear shot at Pataki. And in this campaign, McCall and his supporters really have no one to blame but themselves. Ten years ago, McCall’s star was ascending and he appeared poised to become an Empire State power player for years to come. But his campaign has been badly managed, his fundraising has been poor and he has been dogged by minor scandals. And for a seasoned candidate, McCall has performed poorly on the stump. Audiences have been less than enthusiastic toward him.
Adding to the McCall malaise is the performance of third-party candidate Tom Golisano, whose campaign is being managed by former Nixon and Reagan campaign adviser Roger Stone. Because of ideological conflicts and a long simmering war between Stone and the Pataki administration over Indian gaming issues and an ethics investigation into Stone’s lobbying activities in Albany, Stone has made it his mission in life to serve as a thorn in the side of Gov. George Pataki. And in Golisano he’s found the perfect candidate to really wreak havoc. As it stands, Golisano is running second in most state polls, and in some polls focusing on the upstate vote, he is actually running ahead of both Pataki and McCall.
A third place finish for the Democratic candidate would be a huge embarrassment for the national party, which had touted its gubernatorial victories across the country as keys to a successful campaign season.
LIGHT IN THE FORRESTER
Don’t count Doug Forrester out of the New Jersey Senate race just yet. True, with almost no campaigning, and almost exclusively on name recognition, Democratic fill-in Frank Lautenberg has pulled to a 48-37 percent lead in the polls. But that 15 percent remain undecided is a big enough number to give Forrester some hope. Some. “It’s awfully tough, especially for a guy like Forrester, first time in a campaign, not a terribly exciting speaker,” says a New Jersey Republican operative. “But Lautenberg isn’t lighting things up either.”
The majority of undecideds claim to be independent voters, which in this election gives the edge to Forrester. “If they can be swayed in a positive manner, they would probably go for the guy who isn’t a has-been,” says the operative. “But Forrester has to give them a reason to pull the lever for him.”
The Republican National Committee intends to plunk down at least a million dollars in TV and radio advertising for the last week before election day in a last minute drive to pump up Forrester’s visibility.