Just as generals fight the last war, news media take cues from the last big story. In the Trump era of politics, any GOP candidate in a big race for an elected executive post inevitably will be compared to the president from his party who won against all early expectations.
Marc Molinaro, the Republican nominee for New York governor, is no Donald Trump. Does that speak well of his image and character but poorly of his chances? The run from here to Nov. 6 will tell.
Back in June, as Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's campaign went to work trying to paint him as an ultraconservative extremist, Molinaro told Newsday's Michael Gormley: "If they think that diminishing and demeaning people is the way to win an election, God bless them."
Shunning the idea of demeaning people does not sound like the current president. For detractors of the Democrats, maybe that's just as well. Eight years ago after a rancorous primary, trash-talking businessman Carl Paladino — a Trump mini-me if ever there was one — carried the GOP banner in this blue state and lost bigly to Cuomo, 63 percent to 33 percent.
Other sharp differences: Molinaro doesn't take contributions from the National Rifle Association — but does not dismiss the organization's role in the gun-control debate.
“I think it’s important that we support law-abiding ownership,” Molinaro told Politico back in April. “I think it’s important that those who have record of criminal behavior and violent behavior should be declined access to firearms.”
That's not the patter of a right-wing extremist.
Molinaro opposed fracking for natural gas and, while supporting the recent federal tax cuts, has said he didn't vote for Trump.
The GOP nominee is the Dutchess County executive and became a public official at 18 when elected to the village board of upstate Tivoli, which had 1,118 people at the last census count.
By all accounts, Molinaro's background also includes no elite schools, no mega-real-estate inheritance, no TV celebrity, no bizarre WWE bellowing, no tabloid gossip, no flimsy conspiracy theories. At 42, he represents a different generation from Trump's.
If he ends up winning, it will not happen the same way as it did for Trump.
The scenario for a Molinaro win would have to look more like George Pataki's famous lightning strike. The first-term state senator from Westchester who started out as the mayor of Peekskill came from behind and unseated three-term Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1994.
Pataki these days remains no fan of the current Republican president. A year ago, he even blamed a "Trump effect" for unseating Westchester's GOP County Executive Rob Astorino, who won 42 counties, including Suffolk, when he lost to Andrew Cuomo in 2014.
Every election is different. Some are more different than others.