Could this be the year in which I completely shed myself of the dubious distinction of splitting the year between Congressional Districts controlled by Patrick Kennedy and Maurice Hinchey?
First, some background on Hinchey. Hinchey is in that deep corner of left field occupied by Dennis Kucinich and Alan Grayson. Hinchey led an effort to impeach George W. Bush in the Summer of 2008, when Bush was just a few months away from leaving office anyway. Hinchey has accused the Bush administration of “intentionally” letting Osama bin Laden go free at Tora Bora in December 2001, so as to justify the war in Iraq (which was launched in March 2003).
In other words, Hinchey’s perfect for his heavily gerrymandered district which covers Binghamton (home to a large state university) and Ithaca, home to Cornell University, Ithaca College, and a heavily left-wing population.
For a sense of how big the Republican wave may be on Election Day, consider a normally safe Northeastern Democrat — Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-Ulster), a liberal who’s held the seat since 1992 and never faced serious opposition….
But this year might be different for Hinchey. His challenger is George Phillips, a bright, charismatic conservative from Binghamton who knows both the Congress and the district. A former staffer for Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Phillips now teaches history at a Catholic school in Binghamton.
A recent internal Phillips campaign poll showed the gap between the two to have narrowed to seven points, 44 percent to 37 percent — with Hinchey leading, but below the 50 percent mark, a bad place for any incumbent to be.
Worse still for Hinchey, 19 percent were undecided. They’re not undecided about him (not after his 18 years in Congress), but waiting to hear more from his challenger. And so far, the more they know, the more they like Phillips.
I had heard about this polling even before The Post article. While I have no way of judging the credibility of the poll, it does seem to be backed up by the fact that Hinchey has started seeking help with his campaign from outside the district, including bringing in Bill Clinton.
Third, your humble correspondent, reporting from Ithaca, notes the following: There is almost no sign that there really is a congressional race this year, which is unusual for a place where people don’t hesitate to tell you what they think. As I noted back in November 2008:
To live in Ithaca is to live in a city alive with anti-Bush, anti-war protest. I often joke that the directions to my house in Ithaca read as follows: Take a right at the fifth Obama sign, a left at the third “Impeach Bush” placard, bear right at the “Support Our Troops, End the War” poster, and we are the house just after the “There’s a Village in Texas Missing its Idiot” banner.
I can’t predict voter turnout, but I can predict that the liberal base is not motivated.
Perhaps it is the fact that people in Ithaca, reputedly “10 Square Miles Surrounded By Reality,” are beginning to notice reality.
The economy is more stable here than elsewhere, but still not good. Cornell University is into its second year of a sweeping restructuring meant to cut costs, which has included a staff (but not faculty) hiring freeze. New York State is a financial disaster, and the Ithaca City and School budgets are under pressure due to state cut-backs, which only will get worse.
I also sense Obama fatigue. Admittedly, it’s just a sense. But it’s real. There just isn’t any fervor left in the tired bones of the 60’s generation and its carefully-nurtured progeny.
If the liberal base turns out, Hinchey will win. I see no sign, however, that the liberal base cares anymore, while the rest of us do.
[Note: I just donated to George Phillips. How about you?]