New York Republicans, like conservatives across the country, are clearly angry: They ditched tepid mainstream gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio — a former U.S. representative who gained national notoriety when he dared to challenge Hillary Clinton back in 2000 — in favor of tea-party candidate and local cuckoo bird Carl Paladino. "Rick did a great job. He campaigned. But it’s obvious that Carl’s message resonated with the people more than Rick’s," Onondaga County GOP chairman John DeSpirito told the Syracuse Post-Standard. "People are mad as hell." But where has that anger been channeled? Into a candidate who fathered a love child with one of his employees, which his wife only found out about last year when one of her own children died in a car crash. A candidate who admits to forwarding racist Obama chain e-mails, compared health-care reform to 9/11, and wants to teach poor people to stop being so dirty. (That's not even to mention the fact that he watches bestiality porn and once compared State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to Hitler and "the Antichrist.")
Carl Paladino is not going to be New York's next governor. Even if there weren't an Andrew Cuomo in the wings awaiting his coronation, Paladino would be an extremely problematic candidate. But the Paladino pick also puts other state Republicans in a bind. "Carl Paladino loves to bluster about going after Albany's power brokers with a baseball bat, but the only thing he's likely to beat to a pulp is the state GOP's credibility," Daily News columnist Bill Hammond writes today. "Paladino's brand of ill-informed Tea Party rage sold well with the minority of Republicans who turned out for Tuesday's primary, letting him humiliate a lackluster Rick Lazio. But it spells almost certain disaster for his fellow Republicans in November — and beyond."
It may not be "certain disaster" for the GOP statewide, as it may not be too hard for a candidate to distance himself from someone who is so obviously a fringe nominee. But it will be a problem, and it's a problem that comes from voting with your middle finger.
Nearly everyone's angry at Albany, and not many people are happy with the way our federal government has handled the recession, either. But for New York Republicans, allowing their anger to dictate their choices has caused a missed opportunity. Now Jay Townsend and Joseph DioGuardi can't band together with the gubernatorial candidate to harness that anger and bash their own establishment opponents, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer. Nonpartisan political soothsayers have predicted that neither really has a shot. But they'd have been able to make stronger inroads with a compelling partner on the statewide ticket.
Then again, maybe primary voters weren't planning on picking a winner. With Cuomo all but assured victory, maybe they just wanted to have a little fun along the way? In that case, great pick! Someone go make the popcorn, because this is going to be great to watch.