It’s no secret that New York Democrats are currently in full-blown panic mode. That fact has become so obvious that even CNN recently described them as fearing a “stunning loss” is on the way. Most of them are trying to blame this situation on the Mayor of New York City because he dared to point out the spiraling crime rates. (Wait… isn’t blaming Eric Adams… racist?) But of all the unpleasant surprises potentially awaiting the Empire State’s Democrats next Wednesday morning, the most unthinkable is the possibility that New York Governor Kathy Hochul could actually wind up losing to Republican Lee Zeldin. That is far from assured at the moment, and some of the most recent polls have been all over the place. One poll this week had the race dead even while another taken during the exact same period showed Hochul reopening an eight-point lead.
But no matter where the truth lies, the reality is that Hochul’s popularity and approval have sagged drastically. She should have won this race by more than twenty points, and now it’s coming down to a nail-biter at the eleventh hour. But why? Why would so many New Yorkers turn their backs on the chance to make her the first elected female governor in the state’s history? Some of the analysts watching these events unfold think they’ve struck upon the answer. In case you hadn’t already guessed, it’s because she’s a woman. (Duh.) And in the eyes of the patriarchy, she’s just not “likable” enough. She’s even being compared to Hillary Clinton in that regard. (City and State NY)
Gender is one of many factors in the governor’s race – but it could be a big one. Gov. Kathy Hochul campaigning with Hillary Clinton yesterday got some people in the political world talking about whether Hochul – in her bid to be the first woman elected governor – is struggling with the same gender-related “likability” issues that may have contributed to Clinton’s defeat in the 2016 presidential race.
“I think it really goes to an unconscious bias,” said one woman in politics, who asked for anonymity because she wasn’t authorized to speak for her employer. “I think she’s much more likable than Hillary Clinton, but in an election where crime and public safety is the No. 1 issue, does it hurt her where she’s a woman, and not an aggressive man? Yes.”
So is being a woman hurting Hochul at the polls? “That’s not the question, that’s a given,” said political consultant Alexis Grenell, who’s written extensively about gender and politics. “Zeldin has been attacking her for her lack of leadership. Women are more vulnerable to this kind of attack because every piece of data we have shows that the qualities and adjectives we associate with the leadership concept are coded as male.”
So this is all a matter of secret “coding,” eh? By virtue of being a woman, she’s not seen as a strong enough leader. And Lee Zeldin has been “attacking” her by questioning her leadership and her inability to do anything about the issues that matter to New Yorkers. Imagine the nerve of that guy!
Even Hochul’s supporters in the political analysis game aren’t being much help to her. Describing her as being “much more likable than Hillary Clinton” (as you saw in the excerpt above) isn’t exactly a glowing endorsement. Blaming her association with Andrew Cuomo, as is also being done, doesn’t seem to tell the whole story either.
Perhaps instead of trying to read the gender-based tea leaves, these analysts could spend some time looking at the things Hochul has actually said and done, or not done, since taking office and over the course of the campaign. Crime has consistently been either the number one or number two issue listed by likely voters in recent polls. But during her last debate with Zeldin, Hochul actually laughed aloud when she was asked about the issue of putting criminals away in jail and questioned why crime was “so important” to Zeldin.
One of the chief concerns of voters, particularly in New York City, is bail reform. The news is filled on a daily basis with stories of criminals who are put back out on the streets to commit new crimes. But Hochul has stubbornly refused to work toward repealing that disastrous law. Zeldin has definitely leveraged that fact and the unelected governor’s failure to make any progress to his advantage.
This isn’t a “business as usual” election. New York is quite likely to flip four more congressional seats from blue to red this week. Independents have been abandoning the Democrats in droves. It’s still entirely possible that Kathy Hochul will hang on by her fingernails and make it over the finish line, but if so, she will be governing a state with a very different look and feel to it than the traditionally deep-blue state she came to power in. And her likability has little to nothing to do with it.