What Does New York's Republican Primary Say About the State of the GOP?
This post originally appeared on the Washington Monthly. No matter who Republicans nominated for governor this year, the odds of success are poor -- state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D) is quite popular and enjoys large leads in all the polls. Still, there was a GOP primary that fits nicely into a larger pattern. The state Republican Party rallied behind former Rep. Rick Lazio (R), perhaps best known for losing to Hillary Clinton in 2000's Senate race, and who ran on a platform of opposition to converting a closed clothing store in Manhattan into a community center. He was the sane one. Lazio's primary challenger was Buffalo multimillionaire Carl Paladino, best known for sending racist and pornographic emails, and for advocating prisons for welfare recipients where low-income Americans would be trained in, among other things, "personal hygiene." Rachel Maddow noted on Monday, "2010 may go down in political history as the year in which a guy like this isn't the perennial kook candidate who runs in at least one election every cycle. He's actually, statistically, got a reasonable chance of tomorrow becoming the Republican Party's nominee for governor of the state of New York." And by last night, Paladino had not only won, but he cruised to a landslide primary victory.
Mr. Paladino became one of the first Tea Party candidates to win a Republican primary for governor, in a state where the Republican Party has historically succeeded by choosing moderates. The result was a potentially destabilizing blow for New York Republicans. It put at the top of the party's ticket a volatile newcomer who has forwarded e-mails to friends containing racist jokes and pornographic images, espoused turning prisons into dormitories where welfare recipients could be given classes on hygiene, and defended an ally's comparison of the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, who is Jewish, to "an Antichrist or a Hitler."If Paladino had eked out a narrow win, it'd be embarrassing enough for New York Republicans, but he actually beat Lazio by a whopping 62% to 38% margin. To be sure, this primary result is not quite as consequential as some of the related contests, because this was a statewide race a Democrat was expected to win and is still a statewide race a Democrat is expected to win. Unlike yesterday's results in Delaware, for example, New York's gubernatorial primary hasn't fundamentally changed the larger contest. Paladino's success does, however, reinforce the larger truth about what's become of Republican voters in 2010 -- bizarre, fringe candidates who used to be dismissed are winning GOP primaries thanks to a hysterical party base. For more on the Republican Party's gubernatorial nominee in New York, Rachel's segment is well worth watching.