With Sagging Polls, Could Biden Hurt Democrats in Critical New York House Races?

With Sagging Polls, Could Biden Hurt Democrats in Critical New York House Races?

By Kevin Frey | NY1

New York is poised to play a decisive role in the battle for control of Congress this fall, with roughly a half-dozen House seats considered up for grabs in November — most of them currently held by Republicans.

But polling shows President Joe Biden’s popularity in New York has sagged since 2020, raising questions about whether he might be a drag on Democrats’ chances of winning those contested seats and taking back the majority in the United States House of Representatives.

“The president’s under water in my district,” Rep. Mike Lawler recently told Spectrum News NY1.

What You Need To Know

  • New York’s competitive congressional districts could determine which party controls the United States House of Representatives next year, but a recent poll raised questions about whether President Joe Biden could hurt the Democrats
  • A Siena College poll conducted in mid-April showed that Joe Biden, who won New York by 23 points in 2020, is beating Donald Trump by just 10 points among registered voters
  • Some Republicans see opportunity, with Rep. Mike Lawler saying that Biden “is not the same president that won my district by 10 points in 2020”
  • When asked about Biden, Democrats in these seats pivoted to the issues defining their races and argued the November election is about contrasts

Lawler is one of four Republicans looking to win reelection in New York congressional districts that Biden carried four years ago. The others are Rep. Marc Molinaro, Rep. Anthony D’Esposito and Rep. Brandon Williams.

All have been openly critical of the president.

“This administration has not been good for upstate New York, and I have no problem saying that,” Molinaro said.

Some have gone a step further, formally endorsing former President Donald Trump’s effort to win the Oval Office again. That includes D’Esposito, whose Nassau County district went for Biden by nearly 15 percentage points four years ago.

“If you think back to a time when President Trump was the president, we had a safer America, a more affordable America. We had an America that you could be proud of,” he said when announcing his endorsement in February.

The Polling

The willingness of these politically vulnerable Republicans to criticize Biden and, in some cases, openly support Trump, offers a clue about the decline in Biden’s standing in heavily blue New York heading into November.

House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, whose goal is to keep these seats red, told Spectrum News NY1 in March that, based on the internal polls she is seeing, “President Trump is polling stronger in any of those districts, and Joe Biden’s numbers are plummeting.”

In 2020, Biden won New York state by more than 23 percentage points.

But a recent poll conducted in April by Siena College shows Biden beating Trump by just 10 points among registered voters

That same poll showed 45% rating Biden favorably, compared to 52% unfavorably.

Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said that while an April poll is not “a predictor of what’s going to happen in November,” he argued it could be a warning sign.

“It should be concerning to Democrats. It should be concerning to the Biden campaign,” Greenberg said.

The poll, which has an overall margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points, also showed that as of mid-April, 27% of registered voters across New York believe the United States is on the right track. Nearly two-thirds said the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Some Republicans see opportunity in these lagging polls.

Lawler, for instance, said that Biden “is not the same president that won my district by 10 points in 2020.”

Asked if the president’s polling could complicate things for his Democratic rival, former Congressman Mondaire Jones, Lawler said he thinks it could.

“Look, people are unhappy. They are unhappy with the direction of the country,” Lawler said.

The Democrats

Spectrum News NY1 asked some of the Democrats in these competitive seats whether they worry Biden could be an anchor on their own electoral chances.

Laura Gillen, who is pursuing a rematch against D’Esposito on Long Island after losing by just under 10,000 votes in 2022, argued that the expected boost in voter turnout tied to the presidential race should actually increase her odds.

She then pivoted to her own contest, saying that she is “focused on holding Anthony D’Esposito accountable to his record and for the positions that he’s taken. And for the lack of results that he’s delivered.”

Hudson Valley Rep. Pat Ryan, one of two Democratic incumbents in New York’s competitive seats — the other is Rep. Tom Suozzi on Long Island — pointed to the issues, arguing November is about contrasts.

“It’s not even about any individual. It’s about: Do you want to go forward with an optimistic, hopeful vision or do you want to go backwards to more, really, division?” Ryan said.

Some of the Democrats in these races have at times sought to distance themselves from the White House, particularly on immigration — an issue that has dogged Biden.

Ryan, for instance, recently joined colleagues in writing a letter to the president, urging him to take executive action on the border.

Josh Riley, a Democrat running in a district just north of Ryan’s, offered this take on the president, saying “he’s done a terrible job on the border.”

“And so have all of the politicians, frankly,” Riley said.

Regardless of the polling, though, at least one Republican was quick to downplay any boost he may get from Biden lagging.

“I still got to earn every vote,” Molinaro said.

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