Reprinted from the Daily News Blog...
If there's a blame game to be played, even this year, Democrats will be playing it, and the local obsession is who to blame for the pickup of "merely" a single seat in the New York State Senate in an election that saw apparently safe Congressional Republicans lose and saw the top of the ticket pull nearly three quarters of the vote.

So writers from Jerome Armstrong (who blames Spitzer} to Wayne Barrett (who blames compromised county Democratic leaders) have been trying to figure out what went wrong. Here are five versions. Feel free to pick the combination you think is right, or add your own.

1) Stop complaining. This was a great, historic year, the first year of consecutive Democratic wins in the State Senate in living memory. They've picked up four seats in two cycles. Now they're poised to take the body over, with Spitzer's help, in 2008. And this while Senate Democrats face unusually long odds: big labor backs the GOP, as does huge special interest money. So do many liberal advocacy groups. Mike Bloomberg wrote a huge check in the final days. Meanwhile, other institutional Democrats consider the State Senate a stepchild.

2)Blame the county leaders: In Queens, Brooklyn, and elsewhere in the state, potentially vulnerable Republicans ran unopposed or faced weak opposition. A little-known Queens Democrat, Al Baldeo, with the help of maverick consultant Gary Tilzer, nearly beat Serphin Maltese, the county Republican leader. Two potentially vulnerable Republicans, Marty Golden and Frank Padavan*, ran unopposed. The Democrats ran a real, if second-tier candidate for an open seat on Staten Island, but didn't focus on it. But, returning to Queens, this is really all about Queens, where the Democratic Party has long been a profit-making, courthouse based institution, and has long cooperated with Republicans for mutual gain. Wayne Barrett lays this one out in detail.

3)Blame David Paterson: Paterson led an unprecedented 3 pickups in 2004, but he quickly lost the staff -- people close to his ally and sometime rival Eric Schneiderman -- who led that effort. He didn't recruit strong candidates for many seats, or any candidates at all for some of them -- whether or not county leaders objected. He didn't raise money early, though once he became Spitzer's running mate, and Spitzer got interested in the Senate, the money came in. And his decision to focus on only two seats -- while Democrats mounted strong congressional campaigns in a half dozen, mostly longer-shot districts -- is being questioned in retrospect. Almost a year ago, I was told by surprised potential donors that Paterson had told them candidly that Democrats wouldn't retake the Senate, which didn't really encourage giving.

4)Blame internal politics: Paterson's selection early this year as Lieutenant Governor brought Eliot Spitzer on board, but also proved distracting. The dynamic of the race to replace Paterson didn't help, as the DSCC chair, Liz Krueger, lined up behind Schneiderman and Paterson tacitly backed Malcolm Smith.

5)Blame Eliot Spitzer. That's what MyDD's Jerome Armstrong did. As MIk Moore explained, it makes little sense. He arrived late to the game and, once he got there, raised more money for Senate Dems than anyone else.

The central question, no matter who you blame, is recruitment. Two years ago, Rahm Emmanuel recruited some very good candidates for apparently unwinnable seats. Some of those seats became winnable, and Democrats were there to take advantage of the trend. That didn't happen in the State Senate.

On the other hand, as Eric Schneiderman argued to me today, four years of Paterson's leadership have the Democrats within striking distance. That's new and big. They've conquered the notion that their situation is permanently hopeless, and the heightened expectations are, in a way, of their own making.

And stay tuned. Says one consultant: "Three seats left in 2008 is totally within striking distance. And if Eliot is popular and decides to expend capital to build a majority, he can close the deal by overwhelming the traditional money imbalances and muscling county leaders. If Eliot decides it makes sense, he'll do it - regardless of the Senate Democratic Conference circular firing squad."

CORRECTION: The "deal" between Queens Republicans and Democrats doesn't apply to the wing of the GOP Padavan leads, and he did get a challenge, though not the strongest one imaginable.



  AlbertBaldeo.Com 2005