Maybe Nassau Executive Edward Mangano can escape lasting political damage from this stinging Coliseum setback. Just maybe.
Months ago, a leading Democrat privately speculated that if this plan lost at the polls, most voters would forget the whole thing by the November legislative elections.
Some allies of Mangano even spun Monday's "no" vote as giving him future cover should the Islanders decide to leave town during his tenure. He can continue to say: "The people spoke."
And many voters seem willing to refrain from casting fiscal blame on Mangano -- who's still in his second year in office and won't face the electorate himself for another two years.
Mangano drew a 48 percent favorable rating among registered county voters in a recent Newsday/Siena poll -- not bad when you see that 58 percent say they believe the county is heading in the wrong direction because of its perilous financial state.
The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state's fiscal monitoring board, received only a 33 percent favorable rating.
Spokesman Brian Nevin said Tuesday that Mangano "has received numerous calls from residents who support him and his anti-tax policies as county executive, yet voted against the referendum. Residents have been thankful for giving them the opportunity to exercise their right to vote on the issue."
This upbeat view goes only so far.
Mangano's skeptics and critics -- members of NIFA; the Association for a Better Long Island, which fought the Coliseum plan; Democrats; and even some fellow Republicans speaking privately -- clearly felt vindicated and encouraged by Monday's decisive "no" vote.
If only in a limited way, outcome of the $2.2-million election marks a rejection of Mangano's vision. He put his personal stamp on a policy partnership with Islanders owner Charles Wang -- who, to be fair, did not appear steeped in the strategies of political campaigns. Wang said Wednesday that he wants to keep the team on Long Island but offered no guarantees.
Bruce Gyory, an Albany-based political consultant -- usually on the Democratic side -- said: "The county has a chronic deficit that left it under jurisdiction of a control board. County workers, needy citizens and taxpayers are all being asked to make sacrifices. And yet Mangano and Wang come and ask voters to add to debt."
Mangano's opting for a $400-million borrowing referendum seemed out of step with some wider trends on the public debt scene. For many days leading up to the vote, the airwaves were saturated with news out of Washington on the huge congressional standoff over public borrowing and spending.
As anyone would in his position, Mangano already is seeking to quickly bury this summer rebuke from a low-turnout electorate. He's urging private developers to pitch redevelopment plans -- and thus trying to find himself a fiscal win.