Everything may change in 2010 in the Empire State. From a blue state bystander, New York may emerge as the epicenter of a political earthquake. It may elect a Republican governor, topple the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, dethrone Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats, and retake the state Senate.
The Republican primaries have tested the establishment candidates for governor and senator and found them wanting. In their place, the primary voters have nominated two feisty, scrappy contenders whose hearts and souls are not far from the tea party movement -- Carl Paladino and Joe DioGuardi.
Paladino trails Andrew Cuomo by only 49 to 43 in the Quinnipiac Poll and 49 to 40 in the SurveyUSA Poll, both taken in the past few days. An earlier survey, by Rasmussen -- taken right after the primary -- gives Cuomo a more comfortable 54-38 lead. But the gathering momentum Paladino is showing in the immediate aftermath of the primary is evident in both more recent polls.
A Siena College poll, which may have oversampled Democrats, shows a 57-24 race, a finding that is out of kilter with what seems to be happening.
And, just when Republicans were mourning their decreased chances of victory in the Delaware Senate race comes the news that former Rep. DioGuardi has a great shot at Kirsten Gillibrand. A Rochester Democrat and Chronicle/White Plans Journal News poll released yesterday has him only one point behind the appointed senator, 45 to 44, while Quinnipiac has her ahead by only 48 to 42.
Nationally, Republicans need 10 pickups to win the Senate. They have leads in eight races: Arkansas, Indiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Illinois, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Republican Sharron Angle is tied with Democrat Harry Reid in Nevada, and with Reid far under 50 percent of the vote -- and most undecided vote against incumbents -- Nevada looks to be a Republican pickup.
For the 10th seat -- the vital one that will assure control -- DioGuardi now looks like the party's best bet. The others are: California, where Republican Carly Fiorina trails incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer by only a few points, Washington state, Connecticut and Delaware, where O'Donnell may yet surprise the world and pull out a victory.
On the House side, New York's role is no less crucial.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), the body charged with running the GOP House campaign, lists seven New York seats as among the hundred it considers to be in play -- tied with Pennsylvania for the national lead. The key races, according to the NRCC, are:
-- Suffolk, where Randy Altschuler has a good chance to defeat Democratic incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop.
-- Westchester/Putnam, where Dr. Nan Hayworth trails Democrat incumbent John Hall by only 44 to 42, according to a Sept. 12 poll by Public Policy Polling.
-- Hudson Valley, where Republican challenger Chris Gibson trails incumbent Scott Murphy by only 45 to 40, according to an Aug. 1 poll by the American Action Forum.
-- Plattsburgh, Watertown and the North Country, where Republican Matt Doheny, who almost won as a write-in candidate in a special election last year, looks likely to succeed, assuming the Conservative Party nominee (who lost the GOP primary) doesn't split the vote.
-- Central New York, including the Finger Lakes, Utica and Rome, where incumbent Mike Arcuri trails challenger Richard Hanna by 50 to 37 in a poll by the Democratic Benenson Strategy Group on Aug. 31.
-- Syracuse, where Democratic incumbent Dan Maffei nurses a narrow 44-41 lead over Republican Ann Marie Buerkle, according to an Aug. 1 poll by the American Action Forum.
-- The Southern Tier, including Olean, Hornell, Corning, Elmira and Canandaigua counties, the district of former Democratic Rep. Eric Massa, who resigned amid charges that he was being marginalized by the House leadership for opposing Obamacare. The Democrats are likely to be rewarded for their arrogance by losing the open seat, as Republican Tom Reed leads Democrat Mathew Zeller by 44 to 30.
Add to the NRCC list possible pickups in the races Republican John Gomez is running against Democratic Rep. Steve Israel in Suffolk and that Republican George Phillips is conducting against Democrat Maurice Hinchey in the Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Binghamton district, and there are now nine possible congressional pickups in New York.
Since many of these incumbent Democrats are well below the 50 percent threshold and their Republican challengers are right on their trails, most of these insurgents look to achieve their goal.
In all, 2010 may usher in the end of one-party rule in New York state and pave the way for the biggest shakeup in the state's recent history.