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    Upstate NY Congressman — From Jeb to Trump Supporter

    Upstate NY Congressman — From Jeb to Trump Supporter

    Congressman Tom Reed (NY-23) endorses Trump

    To all the Trump supporters out there, and to The Donald, don’t get your hopes up about Trump defeating Hillary in New York State in a general election.

    It’s delusion. Trump does have a strong base of support in Upstate NY, the vast area north and west of New York City.

    Upstate NY Map

    But the downstate Democrat vote will swamp him, which is exactly what a Sienna College polling institute poll shows:

    Despite holding a wide lead among Republican New York voters in the race for the GOP nomination, Donald Trump would get crushed in a hypothetical general election matchup with Hillary Clinton in the state, a new poll released Monday [March 7, 2016] shows.

    Clinton would beat the outspoken real estate magnate in the Empire State 57% to 34%, the latest Siena Research Institute poll found.

    In such a matchup, registered Democrats overwhelmingly support the former secretary of state (80% to 15%), and registered Republicans overwhelmingly support the Trump (71%, to 19%), while independent voters lean toward Clinton (45% to 38%), according to the poll.

    (added 3-18-2016) Emerson polling just released a poll showing similar general election results, with Trump losing to Hillary by 19 points.

    The other Republican candidates fare no better, so consider NY a lost cause. Give it up. MoveOn.

    BUT, Upstate NY is a whole other thing when it comes to congressional races. Republicans gained several upstate seats in the past three election cycles, including the redistricted NY-23, which includes Ithaca. NY-23 is mostly rural, and leans Republican (about +3).

    Republican Tom Reed swamped Democrat Martha Robertson in the 2014 election by 25%, but that reflected an off-year election combined with Robertson’s policy and campaign ineptitute, exposed by Legal Insurrection repeatedly. But in 2012, a presidential year Reed managed just a 4% win over Democrat Nate Shinagawa.

    Reed is a “moderate” Republican. So much so that there is a Tea Party primary challenger this year, though no one expects that challenge to go anywhere.

    Early on Reed announced his support for Jeb Bush. No great surprise there.

    Democrats are putting up blank-slate John Plumb against Reed. Plumb has spent most of the past two decades out of state in the military and also working for a Democrat Senator and the Obama administration.

    It’s hard to know if Plumb has any chance — Reed has a very effective constituent services operation, does tons of town halls and public meetings, and generally fits with the district outside of liberal Ithaca.

    In the last cycle, Reed even made “liberal Ithaca extremist” a campaign theme against Robertson, and it was effective.

    Martha Robertson Extreme Ithaca Liberal

    And he’s already using the theme against Plumb:

    The Democrats plan was to try to tie Reed to Trump, even though Reed had not endorsed Trump, as this February 22, 2016, DCCC statement reflects (emphasis in original):

    “Now that his horse, Jeb Bush, is out of the race, Tom Reed is stuck between endorsing the rightwing authoritarian policies of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio,” said Bryan Lesswing at the DCCC. “Whether it is Trump’s anti-constitutional rhetoric, or Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio’s support for authoritarian policies, including a ban on all abortion with no exceptions – Tom Reed is going to have to spend the bulk of his time defending their rightwing agenda and authoritarian policies.”

    Indeed, just a week ago, Reed was maintaining neutrality:

    Pressure to pick a side in the Republican presidential race is increasing, but Congressman Tom Reed said that’s not where people should be focusing.

    But no more. Apparently unafraid of being tied to Trump, and taking the March 15 primary results into effect, Reed has issued an endorsement:

    “As the people vote, it has become clear more Republicans favor Donald Trump than any other candidate,” Reed said. “The United States simply cannot have someone in the White House that will continue the failed foreign policy and economic agenda of Barack Obama.

    “Now is the time to unite behind the candidate who I believe will be our nominee, Donald Trump,” Reed continued. “We must move beyond the bombastic rhetoric to positive discussion about creating jobs and improving the lives of all Americans. We all care about improving people’s lives; that should always be our focus. I will use my voice to influence all Republican candidates at all levels to focus on issues and positive solutions for all Americans.”

    There has been a pressure campaign on upstate Republicans by Carl Paladino, a very wealthy upstate businessman and sometimes candidate:

    Until now, Buffalo-area Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, was the only member of New York’s congressional delegation to endorse Trump. Collins was the first member of Congress to publicly back Trump. Reed and the other seven House Republicans from New York had stayed neutral.

    But Reed changed his mind after Trump’s Super Tuesday victories, including a defeat of Sen. Marco Rubio in his home state of Florida….

    Buffalo developer Carl Paladino, one of Trump’s strongest supporters in New York, had pressured Reed and his New York GOP colleagues to endorse Trump.

    Paladino warned in an email to 50,000 supporters Monday that the Republican House members will face consequences if they don’t “get on the bus” and endorse Trump before New York’s April 19 primary.

    “This is our last request that you join ‘Trump for President’ and try to preserve what’s left of your pathetic careers in government,” Paladino wrote in an open letter. “Whatever you do, staying neutral is not an option.”

    Earlier Wednesday, Paladino sent a separate email to supporters with the subject line: “Anyone interested in running in a primary to defeat Elise Stefanik?”

    Stefanik, a first-term Republican House member who represents the North County’s 21st Congressional District, has said she will support the GOP nominee. But she has not endorsed Trump.

    Democrats are hoping that Trump at the top of a ticket (and presumably Reed’s endorsement) will hurt Reed, as this Febuary 14, 2016 article reflects:

    “Trump’s firm position as the Republican front runner is crushing Tom Reed’s dreams of reelection,” DCCC Northeast Regional Press Secretary Bryan Lesswing claimed.

    Lesswing asserted that Trump’s “inflamatory” language and style on the campaign trail will reflect poorly on down-ballot Republicans, including Reed.

    “After crushing his rivals with the biggest victory in a New Hampshire Republican primary since at least 2000, Donald Trump — the women, Latino, and Muslim hater — is now the Republican Party’s standard bearer,” Lesswing said….

    The Reed campaign scoffs at the implication that the congressman’s reelection bid will be hurt by a Trump nomination.“While we are still in the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, Tom Reed is optimistic that the next president will be one of these qualified Republican candidates,” said Tom Reed for Congress spokeswoman Amy Hasenberg.

    Reed believes that his message will resonate regardless of who the next Republican nominee for president may be.

    “No matter who is our next president, I will focus on taking care of my constituents and creating fair legislation,” Reed said.

    Expect Reed’s past criticism of Trump to be thrown back in his face:

    U.S. Rep. Tom Reed says he considers a statement by presidential candidate Donald Trump about banning Muslims from traveling to the U.S. “grossly inappropriate” — but said given the choice between Trump and a Democratic candidate, he’d still support Trump.

    Reed stressed Tuesday on a conference call with reporters that Trump “speaks for himself and not for the (Republican) party” in calling for a ban on Muslim travel to the U.S.

    Trump on Monday issued a press release suggesting a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

    Reed said “freedom of religion is a fundamental freedom” in America.

    “The kind of rhetoric that Donald Trump engaged in in regards to this Muslim issue is just not American,” he said. “To me that’s something he’ll have to answer for.”

    I don’t know how this will play out, but here’s what you can expect in the campaign from Democrats:

    My “sense” on the ground is that Reed will survive whatever onslaught comes his way. He will lose Ithaca, but Ithaca no longer swings the district. I don’t know about the other upstate districts — I can see some losses of Republican seats.

    Reed “gets” the district:

    Regardless, it will be more interestingly than the last cycle.

    UPDATE 3-18-2016
    – Cook Political Report moved NY-23 from Likely Republican to Lean Republican:


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    An entry from the onion.

    But warning do not scroll down to the first Hillary story. What is seen cannot be unssen, It will be permanently etched in your brain.

    DanKing | March 18, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    Trump has got New York Values. That should count for something in our fair state. I’m hoping he can win here.

    1) He should carry Long Island. Those are his people, after all.
    2) He’ll sweep Upstate.
    3) He won’t win a majority of African-Americans, but if he can get 15-20% he is way ahead. Immigration and trade issues affect them, too.
    4) Puerto Ricans should be a constituency for him. After all, they are hurt by illegal Mexican immigration more than anybody.

    Even if he can’t carry New York, the Dems are gonna have to spend time and money here. It won’t be a slam dunk either way.

    teafailure | March 21, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Reed’s strategy makes sense to some extent, though it may be equally risky.

    There is a small possibility that the Republican electorate will be divided this year. If Trump is nominated, many Republicans may vote third-party or just not show up (though they probably wouldn’t vote Democrat). If Trump isn’t nominated at this point, he will argue that he wasn’t treated fairly and run third-party, with his reliable “silent majority” likely following him to form a new Bull Moose Party.

    In such a scenario, Reed’s voting record and prior endorsement of Jeb Bush (made before anyone was taking Trump seriously) would make him an easy target for Trump supporters to call him an establishment crony. If even some Trump supporters decide not to back Reed, it could be enough to cost him the election, so he decided to come out in front of it and back Trump.

    But it’s also worth noting how his endorsement doesn’t really read like an endorsement. It reads more like a concession speech. A surrender. This, along with his revamped marketing that seems focused on pushing him as nonpartisan and anti-establishment, might be enough to assuage Trump supporters that would be otherwise incensed by Reed’s pro-establishment record, while also assuring the anti-Trump Republicans that Reed is mostly changing his mind because of Trump’s probable inevitability and because he’s just focused on stopping Clinton.

    Even the “extreme Ithaca liberals” thing may not end up hurting him much because if that plus the Trump endorsement does incense Ithacans enough to come out in droves to support Plumb, it may only serve to reinforce the notion to Southern Tier voters that Plumb isn’t really “one of them”, as evidenced by his vocal support from those damned “extreme Ithaca liberals” who are probably just pot-smokin’ college students who don’t understand Southern Tier values, amirite? If Reed’s campaign can effectively turn Ithaca’s support into a liability for Plumb that offsets Reed’s own potential liability from endorsing Trump, he could pull off some impressive political judo.

    Still, unlike Eric Massa (who Reed should remember actually won despite his carpetbagger reputation and the lack of Ithaca in the district at the time), Plumb did actually grow up in the Southern Tier and his apparently large family’s presence may still be active enough in the community to reinforce his reputation as a local in the region. That combined with his Naval service and his lack of a voting record to tie him to may be enough to swing the election in a way that Ithaca residents Shinagawa and Robertson couldn’t manage.

    As a left-of-center Ithacan, I’m expecting Reed to win (his 2014 margins were pretty staggering), but I’m currently hoping that Plumb will win. I’ve never been crazy about Reed’s eagerness to scapegoat my city as a bastion for out-of-touch hippies and college students. While we are admittedly somewhat politically-annoying, we also help keep the regional economy from falling apart. College kids (especially Cornell undergrads) love to spend money, and graduates who fall in love with Upstate NY (as I did) reinvigorate the stagnating businesses of the region for substantially lower pay than the retirees they replace, helping to keep the area’s smaller businesses competitive. While I know Ithacans can be outspoken and smug sometimes, that doesn’t mean we contribute any less to the region, and it certainly doesn’t mean we’re any less entitled to Representation. We’re kind of stuck with each other. Might be best if we start getting used to it rather than perpetuating the myth that we’re opposing forces. Until Reed gives me any reason to believe that he’s willing to do that, it’s hard for me to be willing to support him.

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