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OpinionColumnistsDan Janison

Donald Trump's exit, whenever it happens, might just help New York Republicans

President Donald Trump shows a video clip of

President Donald Trump shows a video clip of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo during a White House coronavirus briefing in April. Credit: The Washington Post via Getty Images / Bill O'Leary

Two years ago this week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo used President Donald Trump as a cudgel in a debate against his Republican challenger, Marc Molinaro.

Cuomo: "Are you saying you don't support Donald Trump?"

Molinaro: "I am saying that I am absolutely committed to the delivery of mental health services."

Cuomo: "Do you support Donald Trump?"

Molinaro: "Let's get out of this conversation."

Cuomo: "Do you support Donald Trump?"

Molinaro: "I support anyone who is going to effectively make an —"

Cuomo: "Do you support Donald Trump? You can't answer it."

In an odd way, the future of state and local Republican Party organizations in blue states could become rosier if Joe Biden were to unseat Trump than if the president holds on for another four years.

New York State Democrats risk losing an indispensable enemy. They have shown a united front against the ruling party in Washington. New York's elected officials have agitated for federal help on the coronavirus pandemic. They have resisted Trump policies on immigration and offshore drilling.

The Democratic state attorney general, Letitia James, has pressed big court cases against Trump charities and his secrecy over tax and financial records. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat, is pushing an exploration of city-based Trump Organization's business practices.

But if Biden prevails, Trump's reputation after a while would no longer burden local Republicans. Results of presidential polls in New York are too lopsided to be relevant, with Biden at last look near 60%.

Rep. Max Rose (D-Staten Island) faces a challenge from Republican Assemb. Nicole Malliotakis laced with all the nasty personal negativity of a Trump-era race. Early on in the GOP primaries four years ago, she and other mainstream New York Republicans preferred Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for president. Now, however, Malliotakis is inextricably tied to Trump, perhaps even sinking or swimming with him.

Changing the brand of a party takes a while. But if Trump's grip on the national GOP is loosened, such change would happen.

For years, the GOP has been shut out of all the state's major governing positions. In New York City, Trump revulsion is so strong that Mayor Bill de Blasio wasted valuable time trying to unseat him without giving up his own elected post.

If Biden wins, the mainstream of the Democratic Party will lose the sense of unity that comes with a Trump-inspired political emergency. Factional division could serve GOP purposes, but so could serious messaging on fiscal caution, police, taxes, suburbs and regulation. An undisciplined showman would no longer be hogging the bandwidth and setting an acrid tone.

Then the GOP could better convince independents outside its usual conclaves that it serves as a useful check on the Democratic monopoly in the state — and perhaps one day even gain ground in communities of color.

If Trump wins and Republicans keep the U.S. Senate, the national party stays viable. But it wouldn't necessarily improve the party's fortunes outside red states.

Either way, redistricting based on the 2020 census will be steered by elected Democrats in such places as New York and California, making the GOP revival more difficult — but far from impossible.