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State GOP leader sets his sights on Senate seat

"If we could do it in the 9th Congressional District, we can win the Senate seat also," State Republican Chairman Ed Cox said bravely last week.

Cox referred to the stunning upset by Republican Bob Turner in a Queens-Brooklyn district that had sent Democrats to Washington since the Warren G. Harding administration.

And Cox was thinking about the Republicans' steep uphill prospects of unhorsing Charles E. Schumer's protege in the Senate, Democrat Kirsten E. Gillibrand.

On paper, Gillibrand has a lot going for her re-election, except the plummeting reputation of President Obama, who will lead the ticket in New York next year.

In the 9th District's special election, there were special circumstances that helped Bob Turner, such as criticisms that Obama was throwing Israel under the bus. However, all reputable Democratic commentators said it was general frustration with Obama that turned the tide for Turner.

Exasperation with the president, especially among liberals, forewarns a far different environment in 2012 than in Gillibrand's special election last year.

All Gillibrand had to do was show up for the wedding. Leading the ticket were Andrew Cuomo and Schumer, who each won 63 percent. She got 63 percent. Moreover, the Republican heading the ticket as gubernatorial candidate was the truculent nativist Carl Paladino. Cuomo demolished Paladino by 30 points.

It is the possibility that the Republicans will nominate a belligerent Paladino-style candidate for president like Texas Gov. Rick Perry that gives Democrats their fondest but fading hopes of keeping the White House and the Senate. However, Perry's early popularity has taken a quick downturn since his debate appearances.

That the GOP will keep the House majority is almost a foregone conclusion now. Democrats in both houses seem paralyzed into silence by Obama's backing-and-filling on budget, environmental and military issues, and signs of White House incompetence.

Obama's recycling of Stimulus I in the joint session of Congress after he returned from a controversial vacation squandered the rich gift the Republicans handed him in April when they proposed to abolish Medicare and let Medicaid wither on the vine.

Cox is optimistic, with good reason, about adding Republicans in the ranks of the State Senate and Assembly. Based on how Obama fares with the economy and "how the budget talks [in Congress] pan out," Cox also looks forward to electing more Republicans to the congressional delegation next year. Because of population loss, Western New York will shed one of its four seats in Congress in redistricting. Even so, a Republican is likely to replace at least one of the current three Democratic House incumbents because of Obama ennui.

What Cox lacks in the Senate race is a Republican with name recognition. The only one is former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is thinking about a presidential run. A Senate candidacy is not on his radar -- yet.

Cox mentioned Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos, a successful businessman, who announced for the Senate last April. He made moves to be nominated in 2010, but was shoved aside. He has about $100,000 in his campaign chest, has bumper stickers and is sounding tea party themes.

Gillibrand, meanwhile, has $6.3 million in her treasury. She was a conservative in her capital region House district, but after Gov. David Paterson named her to the Senate, she seamlessly transmogrified into one of the Senate's most devoted liberals and Obama partisans.

Like some freshmen, her record is unremarkable except that she gets more money from Wall Street than any other member. Last week, she declined to respond to emails asking her to list her major accomplishments as a jobs builder.


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