Republican consultant Brendan Quinn said he was the first to show up at his polling place in Saratoga County shortly after it opened Tuesday. Workers seated at the table were so glad to see him -- or any voter -- that it was as if "they wanted to give me a set of pots and pans," Quinn said.
Other reports from the field on the day of New York's Republican presidential primary were similar -- the political equivalent of seeing tumbleweeds and hearing crickets. The only potential suspense for political junkies included whether Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich might turn the volatility of low turnout into scattered symbolic victories. But once Rick Santorum withdrew after Easter, Mitt Romney won his clear path to the GOP nomination against President Barack Obama, so New York's presidential primary result became preordained.
At the same time, you'll hear more one-on-one exchanges of charges and countercharges between the Obama and Romney camps. These carry a predictability of their own.
Political campaigns these days cast aspersions on an opponent regardless of whether the lines of attack actually make sense when taken together. Marketing and truth-telling are, after all, very different concepts. So, as reported by Politico this week, the Obama team may be changing its rap against Romney from "shape-shifter" to charging that the GOP's presumed nominee embraced "a brand of tea party conservatism that turns off Hispanics, women and moderate independents."
One Republican operative said Tuesday he expects Romney to be painted as "out of touch" and his party as "extremist" in the coming Democratic barrage, "neither of which are realistic."
Obama also faces sometimes contradictory partisan criticism. Critics call his policies "socialist" (that is, "extreme") or say he failed to deliver on the "change" promised in 2008, as illustrated by the financial "insiders" (the "status quo") he picked for his cabinet.
When reaching for the broader spectrum in a general election, political pros of the major parties push an appeal in as many directions as possible. A senior Romney campaign aide sounded quite candid a few weeks back when he talked about shaking the "Etch-a-Sketch" and drawing up a new message for the general-election campaign.
Say what you wish about an "extremist" or a "radical," he or she is usually not the same person who lacks "core values" or who "flip-flops."
Since all those terms poll negatively, campaigns throw them around to see what sticks.
In the state's upcoming U.S. Senate race, different Republican candidates have delivered different "flip-flop" and "left-wing" messages against Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand. And her well-funded campaign will no doubt be prepared to try out "extremist" or "status quo" labels, as it deems useful, on whoever wins the GOP's June 26 primary.
Within blue-state New York, of course, the presidential contest will bear on what happens "down-ballot" -- that is, in hot congressional races and perhaps state legislative fights. The question, as one Republican operative put it Tuesday, is whether local candidates in the state will be running into a "head wind" as they did in some previous presidential years.