June 6, 2008
A NY PREZ VACUUM
By JOSHUA SPIVAK
With Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani leading the national polls throughout 2007 (and Mayor Bloomberg eyeing a third-party run), 2008 once looked to be New York’s year. But none of them will be occupying the White House in January.
Indeed, the Empire State hasn’t produced a major-party nominee since 1948, and only three losing veep candidates (two of them the losers in blowouts).
Yet, from 1868 to 1948, only two races lacked a New Yorker as at least a vice-presidential candidate on one ticket. In 1944 and 1904, both major-party presidential candidates were New Yorkers.
Demographics are part of it. New York was the largest state for over a century, providing the biggest bounty in the Electoral College; now it’s third. Ohio, famed home to presidents, had a similar fall - while California and Texas combined to feature candidates on the ballot in every election but two since 1948.
Changes in the political winds are another big cause. New York was long a swing state in close national elections; now it’s solid- ly Democratic. Neither party sees much point in fighting for it in a presidential race.
And the state generally produces politicians who are to the left of their party - a major problem in chasing the GOP nomination.
But what of NY Democrats? One final issue may be their downfall. NY’s extremely dysfunctional state government may inculcate a warped perspective on electoral power. By the time he’s ready for the national stage, the contender is no longer capable of making good political decisions - witness the hamlet act of Mario Cuomo or George Pataki’s strange flirtations with 2000 and 2008 runs.
New York has retained a major role in presidential campaigns - serving as an ATM for candidates in dire need of funds. But, if you’re looking for national political candidates, it’s best to look somewhere else.
Joshua Spivak, a lawyer and PR executive, is a research fellow at the Hugh L. Carey Center for Government Reform at Wagner College.