New York Governor Odds: Crown Jewel Crisis? Not So Fast

Written By Evan Scrimshaw on October 24, 2022
kathy hochul

With the race for the Governorship of New York heating up, there’s some evidence popping up that the race might be close. Given the complexities of New York and the fact that the current incumbent took over after Andrew Cuomo’s scandals, could there be an opening for the Republican party?

It’s an outcome we can legally bet on at PredictIt. Click on the PredictIt price below to bet now.

New York Governor Odds: Kathy Hochul (D) vs. Lee Zeldin (R)

PartyPredictIt PriceImplied Odds
Democrats$0.78-354
Republicans$0.24+317

History

In 2018, Andrew Cuomo ran for his third term as Governor of New York, beating back a challenge from left-wing activist and former Sex In The City star Cynthia Nixon in the Democratic Primary before easily beating Marc Molinaro in the General.

Cuomo, who resigned less than three years later at the threat of impeachment, ended up mired in scandal because of a series of allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior. His resignation ended up seeing his Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul, take over.

When Hochul took over, New York did move to the left, with Hochul less ideologically moderate and stubborn than Governor Cuomo. In so doing, she attracted a challenge from Lee Zeldin, a Long Island Congressman who was initially thought to be launching a no-hope bid.

Now, Democrats are in bad shape with Hochul in some trouble. That Zeldin bid looks less quixotic and more real – at least, if you believe the markets.

The problem is, they’re out to lunch.

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The Case For Republicans Winning

The case for this being somewhere on the board is that a lot of polls have Hochul’s lead in the single digits, and that those pollsters overestimated Joe Biden’s leads in 2020 over Donald Trump. It’s a not bad argument, in a sense.

Zeldin appears to be running a good campaign – he has elevated inflation and crime as key issues, while emphasizing that abortion access won’t change in the state even if he wins. While that is a statement of mere reality (Democrats control the Legislature), it’s still neutralizing the issue that Democrats hoped to use.

Hochul’s campaign has been mediocre too – she has no animating project or goal for what a “Hochul” Administration wants to get done. She expects to be able to win because she’s a Democrat in New York – a bet that should win, but isn’t a lock.

Since then, they’ve gotten a few fairly high profile pollsters – Marist, Siena, and Quinnipiac – to all show competitive, single digit races. For those three pollsters to show that after missing Republican strength in 2020 could be used as evidence that Democrats are in real trouble.

The problem with that is, we know those polls are wrong – because there’s also a Senate race in New York this year, and we know those polls are wrong.

The Case For Democrats Winning

In the three elections Chuck Schumer has run as an incumbent, his average margin of victory is 41%. Schumer is an electoral force, winning by at least 30% three straight cycles, including in 2010, a notoriously bad year for Democrats.

Schumer does this in part because his strength as a candidate wards off strong candidates, but also because he knows how to campaign as a Brooklyn Democrat in Upstate New York. Even if there has been some nationalization of Schumer’s profile as Majority Leader, he’s still a beloved figure in New York running against a paper candidate.

And his lead, on average, is only 17%.

Quinnipiac, the least Hochul friendly poll of the cycle, only has Schumer’s lead at 12%, and SurveyUSA has it at 14%. Even Marist and Siena can only get a D+20 result, which would be a 20% decline in his performance since 2016, which isn’t going to happen.

Hochul’s polling is only close because the polls they are getting are, plainly, wrong. Zeldin is winning some Democratic voters, but the way he wins is by getting a lot more Schumer-Zeldin voters, not by praying that Chuck Schumer only wins by 10-15%.

What’s happening is that Siena and Marist and Quinnipiac are correcting for 2020 in their polling. It’s a logical response to being wrong, and one we know generally leads to overcorrection.

We know that polling misses in Governors polls in 2018 were highly correlated to state partisanship. Most of the time, safe state polling underestimates the size of the lead of the party that always wins that state, which would help Hochul.

We also know that the number of cross party Governors is at close to an all time low. In the 2006 midterms, 16 of the 36 states that elected Governors that day elected a party different than their Presidential vote in 2004. For 2018, that number was 8.

The idea that New York is going to go red during an at-best moderately GOP year – and a year where Democrats are winning Michigan and Minnesota Governors – is for the birds.

Conclusions

New York Governor is a classic of a genre – the polls are always wrong, except when they say what certain people want to believe.

We know that there are issues with safe state polling – which is why nobody believes those South Dakota or Oklahoma polls showing close races. Hell, in Oklahoma, the Democrat apparently has a 7% lead, and nobody believes it’s even remotely close. And the thing is, they’re right not to.

For some reason, that same correct logic doesn’t apply to New York, where we know the polls are wrong because of the entirely fictitious Senate polling. We know that Schumer will win by at least 25%, if not 30%, and given that’s the case, Hochul will win by something in the mid-10% range.

The race for New York is fun, and the idea of Democrats losing their crown jewel is an intriguing idea, but we saw this with California last year when the other crown jewel was allegedly under threat – it wasn’t, and all the nonsense about it seemed absurd with any amount of hindsight and reflection.

The same thing is true about the race to govern New York. Whatever you think of Kathy Hochul, she will win. She’s a Democrat running for statewide office in New York. At the end of the day, that’s enough.

Bet accordingly.

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