Dems Losing Grip on Crucial Suburbs

After the media overhyped Democratic losses in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial elections in November, I argued that the real warning sign for Democrats wasn't the statewide executive races, which are often driven by voters' feelings on the candidates themselves, but by results in the New York suburbs in Westchester County and Connecticut. Democratic losses for obscure local offices there, where the average voter probably knows little to nothing about the candidate reflect how voters feel about the parties as a whole. Prosperous, diverse, knowledge and service-economy inner-ring suburbs of New York are the bellwether Democrats should focus on. Those areas presaged the rise of the Obama coalition in the 1990s and 2000s, and a swing back to Republicans, who carried them in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan and, locally, Sen. Al D'Amato, would be a bad omen for Democrats.

So here's another data point on that question: *Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy is planning to run for governor of New York as a Republican even though, until now, he has been a Democrat. A deficit hawk who has talked tough—some say offensively—on immigration, Levy obviously sees the political winds shifting in his suburban home turf. New York state elections have an urban/rural divide, with the suburbs in the deciding swing-vote position, that is a microcosm of national elections. With New York City's heavily Democratic vote, and upstate leaning Republican, the suburbs are where statewide elections are decided.

When Long Island flipped from red to blue in recent years, Republicans looked unlikely to ever win another statewide election. But Suffolk's neighbor Nassau County went back to the GOP last year. While Levy may not win the Republican primary, and he may not beat Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in the general election, a man who won 96 percent in his last reelection campaign, as Levy did, is obviously a shrewd political operator. If he thinks the New York suburbs are more hospitable turf to Republicans right now, that should have Democrats very worried for their prospects in the nation as a whole.

*correction: this post originally referred to Levy as executive of Nassau County.

Dems Losing Grip on Crucial Suburbs | News