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Gershon campaign blooper annoys Bellone

Democratic candidate for New York's 1st district Perry

Democratic candidate for New York's 1st district Perry Gershon speaks with media and voters on Nov. 6, 2018. Credit: Johnny Milano

Daily Point

Gershon edits TV ad over Bellone controversy

Enter it in the storied annals of the not-quite-endorsement TV spot. 

CD1 candidate for the Democratic nomination Perry Gershon launched his first television ad of the campaign this week, featuring an ICU nurse who criticizes GOP incumbent  Lee Zeldin and President Donald Trump over health care and the coronavirus pandemic. But there was also a second or two of County Executive Steve Bellone standing behind Gershon on a stage and grasping the businessman’s hand with his trademark celebratory grin. You could be forgiven if you thought the popular Suffolk leader was lending his political support to one of the four candidates on the Democratic ballot.

Yet the footage was from 2018, when Gershon took his first shot against Zeldin. Bellone hasn’t endorsed anyone for the CD1 primary, which is next month. 

The ad seems to have ruffled some feathers. It was not approved in advance, according to Bellone’s camp. So Gershon is cutting the Bellone clip from the slightly more than $50,000 cable ad buy. 

“We appreciate that the county executive is focusing solely on guiding Suffolk through the pandemic and being sensitive to that, we’ve decided to tweak our ad,” said Gershon spokeswoman Kim Devlin. 

The new version is expected to be up in a few days. A Gershon tweet about the ad was also deleted. 

The almost-endorsement, or praise from a less-than-sanctioned source, is a proud tradition in New York as elsewhere. See former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ads featuring a praise-ful President Barack Obama during Bloomberg’s aborted White House run. Or the 2013 ad from Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano featuring kind words from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who came out for Democrat Tom Suozzi. Or Trump just days ago turning to kind words from unlikely sources, including Cuomo.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Lee Zeldin ranks high among bipartisan House members

What does it say about a country when noted Republican firebrand Lee Zeldin is rated the 12th most bipartisan member of the House of Representatives? And that he’s so proud of it?

Has he changed? Does Zeldin’s historically partisan Twitter and cable-TV persona defy his true beliefs and voting record? Is it impossible for a GOP representative who wants to be reelected in a blue state to toe the red-state line too closely? Or is it just strange days?

All of the above, anyone?

The ratings released this week by the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University had New York Republicans at the top of the list in the Democratic-controlled chamber. Syracuse’s John Katko was rated second in cross-aisle voting, while soon-to-retire Long Islander Peter King was rated third. Zeldin’s claim to fame in this assessment is that it so clearly belies his image, and that he proudly publicized the rating.

“I do take pride in this because I do believe you can always find common areas of agreement and ways to make progress with anyone, or that we should be able to,” Zeldin said. 

But he also acknowledged that it’s impossible to defend New York’s interests without often siding with Democrats, as he did when opposing President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax bill that capped federal deductions for state and local taxes at $10,000. Zeldin has also fought the GOP to permanently fund care for 9/11 responders.

But asked how that rating matches up to his often fiery screeds on Twitter and cable TV, which have quieted down somewhat in the era of coronavirus, Zeldin said: “I do think you can fight strongly for what you believe in, but I’m also trying to get better all the time, as a father and husband and person and representative, and it’s possible that maturing has been a part of it, too.”

And maybe it’s a Long Island thing. Kathleen Rice came in at 26 and Thomas Suozzi was ranked 37 — both are Democrats, easily putting all the Island’s representatives in the top 10% of those members willing to row in unison with the other party. 

New York’s least bipartisan representative was Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at 426 and given her public posture, it’s likely she was as proud of her rank as Zeldin was of his, although she did not publicize it.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Blame Obama

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/cartoons

Final Point

Analyzing Trump’s coronavirus strategies for reelection

Two coronavirus-related strategies for President Donald Trump’s reelection bid are becoming clear in two new campaign videos released last week 

One approach is to stretch the bounds of truth, as was done in an “American Comeback” video that selectively edits a CNN interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta to suggest that Trump’s travel restrictions saved millions of lives. 

The full clip shows Gupta responding to a question about social distancing and stay-at-home orders. CNN’s parent company responded with a cease-and-desist letter.

The video also includes a clip of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo praising the federal government’s “phenomenal accomplishment,” though this was also pieced together out of wider remarks in which Cuomo praised various groups. 

The second strategy: Portray the commander in chief as an unconventional outsider even if many of his pandemic remarks and actions are criticized by scientists and public health experts. “Not always polite, he does it his way,” a narrator intones in another video called “Tough Steps.” “Not the Washington way. But he gets it done.”

The two strategies reinforce each other. Trump’s muddying of the factual waters makes criticism seem less valid, and him more like a maverick. 

It’s a bold move with tens of thousands dead and millions unemployed across the country because of the pandemic. But it’s moving forward on various fronts.

“My team just launched a brand-new ad to FIGHT BACK against their biased coverage and show all the great work we’ve been doing,” Trump says in the text of a recent Facebook ad promoting a clip of one of the new videos. 

On some versions, even the link to view the video comes with this message: “The Fake News will try and stop it.”

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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