Demonizing President Donald Trump or pandering to his fans seems at first glance to offer the big binary choice for major-party candidates in this year’s state, congressional and local elections.
Much has been said about suburban Democrats looking to take advantage of Trump’s follies and alienations to unseat and defeat Republican rivals in House seats across America.
Generally, the president’s party loses ground in these midterm elections.
Offsetting that angle of attack, however, is that while citizens tell pollsters of disdain for Congress, they tend to re-elect their local representatives. And when they don’t, it may be because of some special problem for the incumbent.
All electoral contests differ, and 2018 is not a do-over of 2016.
“Blue” New York is making use of the Trump presidency in different ways on a statewide stage so far.
There’s the matter of celebrity. Running a longshot Democratic primary campaign against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Cynthia Nixon seeks to trade up on her TV fame. Sound familiar? Oprah Winfrey has been getting her dose of Democratic interest for 2020 based on the idea that “if they can do it, so can we.”
But given that she’s a liberal ally of Mayor Bill de Blasio, and is looking to gain traction in New York City, Nixon is clearly trying to connect Cuomo with Trump in voters’ minds.
“In 2010,” she said Monday, “Andrew Cuomo stood on the steps of the Tweed Courthouse in New York City to announce his run for governor on a promise to clean up Albany,” Nixon said. “As most New Yorkers would tell you, he’s cleaned up Albany about as well as Donald Trump has drained the swamp.”
Cuomo has dismissed her as a second-tier celebrity, which would have sounded even more Trump-like had he tweeted it. But when it comes to actual policy, the governor has been verbally pounding away at the White House as loudly as have the national figures in his party.
On Tuesday, for example, the governor’s office declared in a statement, “The Trump administration’s decision to ask about citizenship on the U.S. Census is a gross political act that launches another missile at the heart of New York.
“Make no mistake: this decision is anti-immigrant and is intended only to serve the political agenda of those in power in Washington.”
House and U.S. Senate races are more relevant to presidential actions, of course, with candidates offering themselves as either champions or opponents of what they view as the Trump agenda.
Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) is dropping his bid for re-election. He told the New York Times that if he held a town hall this week he’d face “question after question” over anti-Trump allegations by porn actress Stormy Daniels.
The questions, he said, would be along the lines of: “Do you believe him or do you believe her? Why don’t you believe her?”
That by itself sounds a little hollow as a rationale to quit, but it shows that the Trump effect is felt across the land.