The Power -- or Not -- of Endorsements
December 1st, 2010

This post was originally too vague about when Eric Schneiderman might have considering leaving the attorney general race. It has been updated below.

In a five-way contest with no widely known candidates, endorsements loomed large in this year’s contest for state attorney general, according to the aides who managed the race.

And of all the endorsements two loomed largest: Andrew Cuomo’s and the New York Times.

Speaking at a post mortem roundtable at the New School this morning, the consultants and advisers said the campaign thought Cuomo’s imprimatur would have a huge impact. Aides to Eric Schneiderman — the ultimate victor — said his campaign greatly feared that Cuomo would weigh in for Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice (whatever Cuomo might think of Rice, the conventional wisdom was that he wanted a woman on the Democratic ticket, and Rice was the only option). In fact, Schneiderman’s lead strategist Blake Zeff said, if Rice had gotten Cuomo’s endorsement before the June deadline for filing for the State Senate, Schneiderman might have dropped out of the attorney general contest and sought re-election to his Senate seat instead.

To keep that from happening, the Scheiderman campaign kept contrasting Schneiderman’s role in the fight to repeal the Rockefeller drugs laws with what they portrayed as Rice’s support for them. Given Cuomo had also opposed the draconian penalties for low-level drug use, they hoped this would remind Cuomo why he should not endorse Rice.

It may have worked. For whatever reason, Cuomo stayed out of the primary entirely, although he did endorse Schneiderman for the general election.

While the power of the mainstream media may be on the wane, the New York Times still packs a lot of clout — or at least campaigns think it does. At the round table on this years race for New York state attorney general, candidates discussed how they curried the Times’ favor and how they thought the editorial could shape the race.

Aide to Schneiderman, who got the Times’ nod, discussed how they prepped their candidate for his encounters with the Times editorial board, much as they would prepare for a debate. While Sean Coffey hoped for the Times’ blessing, the Schneiderman camp had apparently heard that their main rival for it was Eric DiNallo.

All agreed that, had Coffey or DiNallo gotten the Times’ backing, the race might have turned out differently.

When it came to the general election, the Republican candidate Dan Donovan did not stand much of a chance for the Time’s endorsement, said his campaign managed Bradley Tusk, because of his opposition to abortion. For some reason, this seemed to provoke outrage from the Village Voice’s Wayne Barrett, an audience member who expressed shock — shock — that the Time would withhold an endorsement solely because a candidate did not support a woman’s right to choose. (Guess it’s just not important enough. But as they used to say, if men could get pregnant….)

Other endorsements managed less, notably those from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Mayor Ed Koch, both of whom backed Donovan. Emily Arsenault of the Schneiderman campaign saw their support for Donovan as “largely a financial issue,” expecting it to pull in lots of money.

It didnt.

Bradley Tusk of the Donovan campaign who also has been a close Bloomberg political adviser, said this did not surprise him. Bloomberg contributes money and might hold an event, Tusk said, but does not get on the phone and urge other rich New Yorkers to open their wallets for a particular candidate.

That left the fundraising to Donovan, who while “a terrific guy,” Tusk said, is “a pretty bad fundraiser.”

By on December 1, 2010, 5:22 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Eye on Albany,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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One Response to “The Power -- or Not -- of Endorsements”

  1. PW Says:
    December 1st, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    It is unfortunate that such a compelling figure as Sean Coffey was not elected AG.

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