When Will Gillibrand Drop Out? (Asking For A Friend)

Written by on March 9, 2019

National and early-state polling for New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has quite consistently been going up and down between zero and 1% since she announced she wants to be president a few months ago. The Harvard-Harris poll in late February showed her at zero percent, while the slightly more recent Morning Consult poll shows her at 1%.

The good news for her is that voters don’t know who she is (yet). The bad news is that when they find out about her, they walk away with a negative impression usually tied to her unfair treatment of Al Franken or her career flip-flops. She’s doing the worst of all the senators who have jumped into the race– worse than Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris at the bottom end and far worse than Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders at the top end. One respected Democratic operative told me her game plan is no longer about the 2020 nomination but about making herself a contender for Biden’s VP pick. “She’s already got that loser stink about her,” he told me… “She’s not even making headway in her own state.” Reporting for Politico, Elena Schneider and Laura Barrón-López wrote that she hasn’t been able to get a single endorsement from her home state congressional colleagues, not even from like-minded establishment types– despite trying really hard. “[S]o far,” the wrote this week, “no one has jumped on board.”

Gillibrand’s efforts to get home-state colleagues committed to her presidential campaign reflects some members’ wish to see the field develop, as well as the complex internal politics of New York’s huge Democratic delegation– and the fact that Gillibrand could face presidential competition from within the state. Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn’t conclusively closed the door on a run and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio travels to early caucus and primary states. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg bowed out of the 2020 primary only on Tuesday.

But Gillibrand’s hunt for support stands in stark contrast to neighboring Sen. Cory Booker, who locked down the entire New Jersey Democratic delegation within a month of his presidential launch, as did Sen. Bernie Sanders in (much smaller) Vermont. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was introduced by Rep. Joe Kennedy, a Massachusetts colleague, at her official launch event last month, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar shouted out to freshman Reps. Angie Craig and Dean Phillips as she announced her campaign in a driving snowstorm in Minnesota.

And while Sen. Kamala Harris has not yet received the support of most of her California colleagues, she has locked down endoresements from five House members there.

Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) noted that “the governor could still be in play” for a 2020 presidential bid from New York, but that he’s open to supporting Gillibrand.

“It’s too early to make any kind of decisive commitment without knowing the full lay of the land,” Higgins said. “It’s early and there’s seemingly new candidates coming in every single day.”

“It’s early. I’m taking my time,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY). “I don’t know all the candidates yet. I’m going to wait to see who all of the candidates are.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer, the minority leader and New York’s senior senator, is also expected to remain neutral in the 2020 primary.

And Rep. Carolyn Maloney said Gillibrand hasn’t asked for her endorsement yet. “She’s working hard, she’s been going into South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa,” said Maloney– who was more critical in a recent New York Daily News story, questioning whether Gillibrand could beat President Donald Trump in Midwestern states key to victory in 2020.

And some members of the New York delegation are waiting to see whether Beto O’Rourke jumps into the presidential race, citing their close relationship with the former House member from Texas.

“No one seems to be willing to stick their neck out for” Gillibrand, said Rebecca Katz, a New York-based Democratic consultant.

Katz noted that Gillibrand’s 2017 comments that former President Bill Clinton should have resigned during the Monica Lewinsky scandal “might be part of the hesitation.”

But Katz said that “if you build it, they will come,” and if Gillibrand “resonates in Iowa and New Hampshire, then I’m sure the New York delegation will take notice.”

Some House members privately noted that Gillibrand’s relationship with other New York Democrats isn’t as strong as Schumer’s. “We see and deal with him a lot more,” said one member, granted anonymity to discuss internal delegation dynamics.

But Gillibrand is reaching out to her colleagues. On Tuesday, Gillibrand invited members of the New York delegation to an impromptu event with New York county officials at Bistro Bis, a restaurant on Capitol Hill. But only one member showed up to the early evening event, which coincided with House votes, after Gillibrand’s office extended the invitation two hours earlier, according to people with knowledge of the invitations.

Progressives weren’t happy with her typically self-serving criticism of Ilan Omar, right at the point when Omar most needed support from within her own party. That’s typical Gillibrandian behavior– throwing a colleague under the bus to curry favor with a segment of the population opposing that colleague. “She’s a real piece of work,” a congressional staffer whose boss Gillibrand has been wooing, unsuccessfully. “No one in the House really likes or trusts her… maybe she’s done better in the Senate, although I don’t see any of them clamoring the endorse her either.”

On Thursday, Shane Goldmacher reported for the NY Times that “No one from New York’s 21-member congressional delegation is yet backing her bid for president. And neither is New York’s governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, or its other senator, Chuck Schumer, who as minority leader is staying neutral because numerous senators are in the race.” He noted that her “missing support back home is revealing of both her New York relationships and how she has constructed her national profile, often by staying far from the state’s notoriously fractious and rough-and-tumble fray… In 2018, a New York-based political magazine, City and State, published a ranking of the city’s most powerful people in politics. Ms. Gillibrand ranked 16th, one spot behind Mr. de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray. (The top four were, in order, President Trump, Mr. Cuomo, Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Schumer.)

In an interview with Gabe Debendetti for New York Magazine this week, Gillibrand was still very defensive when asked about the switcheroo from New York’s most conservative Democrat in Congress to (fake) liberal, immediately showing herself asa transaction careerist with no fundamental ideological foundation, just someone willing to back any agenda that would further her ambitions, the reason so many people are repulsed by her candidacy.

Well, it’s certainly the talking points from the Republican Party. It’s what they’re putting out there. But, you know, my background, and where I’m from, is very much part of my story. The fact that my first campaign was in a two-to-one Republican district, and I was able to win that against an entrenched Republican incumbent who’d been in Congress for eight years is part of who I am. The fact that he was a bully and demeaned me and tried to dismiss me with comments like, “You’re just a pretty face” shows not only my resilience, but how I treat a bully– I talk past them. When he says, “You’re just a pretty face,” you say, “Well, thank you, but let’s now talk about how we get out of Iraq and my own out-of-Iraq policy, and why I believe this is the most important thing we do right now.” And my second campaign was no different. My opponent was a philanthropist, had a lot of personal money and wealth, and he decided to spend $7 million, almost exclusively on negative campaign ads. I was a mom with young kids at the time, I had just had Henry. So I’m walking around the district with a toddler– Theo was 4, Henry was just a baby– and we learned something in politics: that you cannot win a campaign [against a mother] with a toddler and an infant on negative campaign ads, because nobody believes you.

…[S]o when I became senator ten years ago, I realized that only protecting the Second Amendment and, you know, hunters’ rights, wasn’t enough, and that I needed to really absorb the pain and suffering and challenges of other communities that had deep gun violence and gang violence, and meeting even just one family who had lost a daughter when a stray bullet hit her in the head, and meeting her whole class, made me recognize immediately that I had to be a champion for her. And that meant writing my first piece of legislation on ending gun violence, which was an anti-trafficking law, because Commissioner [Ray] Kelly– at the time, our New York City police commissioner– along with a lot of parents who had lost their children said: This is the thing. These guns are coming in from out of state. They’re almost all illegal, and they’re almost going right into the hands of gang members. So when I meet a mom, more recently, who lost her 4-year-old on a park bench in Brooklyn, that’s something you don’t recover from. You have to speak a truth and say, “This must be addressed.”

What’s being addressed is her authenticity, which is reflected by that zero to 1% backing she’s finding in the polls and the lack of enthusiasm for her campaign among her home state colleagues. And everything is everyone else’s fault, never an attractive trait in a politicians (see Donald J. Trump).

Reader's opinions
  1. Don Hagen   On   August 1, 2019 at 1:13 pm

    Gillibrand is why Congress has an approval below that for poison ivy. She is self-centered and calculating, driven only by ambition, not principle.
    She can keep her A rating from the NRA and assassination of Al Franken and slither away.

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