Tuesday, March 14, 2006

NY Senate: Pardon Me While I Yawn

By Stuart Rothenberg

Once again, the New York Senate race is receiving more attention than it deserves.

The decision by Kathleen Troia McFarland (R) to jump into the Republican Senate race has some GOP insiders smiling, and cable television news hosts jumping for joy.

Republicans hope that McFarland can make Clinton spend money running for reelection. And they’d like to see her find a chink in the Senator’s armor that the party can exploit in 2008. Cable TV networks and talking heads figure that they again have an excuse to blanket Senate Clinton with coverage.

The only problem with all of the attention is that McFarland isn’t any threat to the reelection of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton – or to the Presidential hopes of the state’s junior senator. Clinton was a safe bet for reelection before McFarland’s entry, and she’s a safe bet for reelection after McFarland’s entry. Nothing has changed. Absolutely nothing.

McFarland had already raised over $300,000 when she jumped from a Congressional race (in Manhattan’s 14th Congressional District) to the U.S. Senate race, and as a moderate Republican woman who has media experience, she is not without assets in a race against Clinton.

But let’s get real here. The Senator has over $17 million in the bank, is a popular Democrat in a Democratic state, and is going to cruise to reelection against a second- or third-tier challenger, which is exactly what McFarland and former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer (R) are.

Spencer’s campaign has already started to attack McFarland as a liberal. That’s just what the Republicans need at a time when the party is getting set to lose the governorship, and it’s fighting to hold onto its seats in the state Legislature.

Most TV and newspaper reporters cover Senator Clinton as if she were a Hollywood celebrity. But she is not in a competitive race for reelection, and both K.T. McFarland (and Spencer) and I have the exact same chance of beating the Senator in November. And I won’t even be on the ballot.

There is simply no political reason to talk about this race.

This piece first appeared on Political Wire on March 8, 2006.