From the moment that the public was made aware that President Donald Trump had decided to visit Utica, NY, for a fundraising event for the incumbent Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, the public and political organizations erupted. For the Far Left, it was an eruption of anger. For the Right, it was an eruption of celebration. Those eruptions continue to spread 2 days after the fact.
The reasons for the presidential visit are multiple, both confirmed and assumed. It’s clear and apparent that as a fundraising event, this was an effort to raise campaign funds for the incumbent Congresswoman Tenney in the 2018 NY mid-term election. Equally clear is that it’s intention was to raise awareness and interest, among voters, for the re-election of the Congresswoman. Perhaps less clear was the intent to blunt some of the interest and opportunity of Governor Andrew Cuomo, not just in his 2018 re-election bid, for the 2020 presidential election. Even less direct potentially was the opportunity to confront the growing interest, primarily among millennials, in socialism and social media hype.
All of these factors, and many more, became realities for Central New York if not the entire State. But not all of these factors were addressed directly. In some cases these and other objectives were initiated and maintained by individuals outside the political parties. Talk radio, podcasts, memes, bar room discussions, and other interactions were quickly overrun by politics that otherwise would never occur.
The degree of intensity has not yet diminished, even though the 24/7 news cycle has already begun to move on to more salacious and eye-catching click-bait. The number of people who can pronounce and spell Omarosa has increased exponentially since Monday, as an example. But what is the aftermath?
Again, some of the conclusions are obvious and readily seen. The Tenney campaign is now far more flush with cash on hand, though no official figure has been announced. A conservative estimate can be guessed as no less than $100,000 with the upper range potentially being around $600,000 or more (not including outside spending or donations separate of the direct event). Which significantly changes the advantage of campaign spending – notably on political commercials and events – from a slight advantage of Democrat challenger Anthony Brindisi (with a $400,000 lead as of July 6, 2018 according to FEC records) to a slight lead for Rep. Tenney.
This of course does not take into account the outside spending. The House Majority PAC, which is unofficially but well understood to be directed by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, is responsible for $584,000 in direct attack spending in the NY-22 race (there has been no positive campaign spending by this PAC in this race). This is the second highest amount of spending by that PAC. This is true though Brindisi has repeatedly publicly denounced PAC influence for Rep. Tenney. The outside spending, including PAC’s, for Rep. Tenney is $17,857.
But as important as political commercials are, perhaps the greater impact has been on the public discussion. In terms of talk radio, in Utica (which is the northern portion of the NY-22) a slew of guests appeared on WUTQ to discuss the positive energy for the Tenney campaign and appreciation of President Trump. This drowned out even the effort of challenger Brindisi appearing on the station to talk up his attempt to steal the thunder of the President with a simultaneous counter-fundraiser.
In Binghamton (part of the Southern Tier, in the south of the District) the only talk radio station, WNBF, was decidedly less enthusiastic. The host generally avoided discussion of the event, other than to claim that the incumbent and President are difficult to speak with. When presented with an opportunity to discuss the protest – with Michael Vass in particular – the host preferred to try to discredit and deflect conversation rather than engage it. For full clarity, we have included an unedited verbatim recording of the conversation in question below:
Separate of talk radio, the general public seemed most interested in the protest and the hope of a return visit by the President in the form of a rally like the recent visit to Wilkes-Barre in Pennsylvania. While many were disappointed in the cost of the fundraising event many – even those that dislike President Trump – were eager for the opportunity to see and interact with a sitting Commander and Chief. Some considered the potential economic boost a rally might bring to the long suffering regions.
Conversation also focused on the extremity of the protests. The vulgarity of several signs, the costumes of some individuals, and the level of anger. The fact that an unknown number of protesters were bused into the region was not lost either. Finally, a few of the more politically oriented debated the result of the protests on the prospects of candidates in the fringe elements of the Democrat Party – Citizen Action, BLM, Indivisible NY, Antifa, and others.
Still, no matter where the conversations occurred, and no matter the exact topic of discussion, one absolute was that there was far more polarization. Whether that meant individuals that previously were leaning to one side or the other publicly retreated and avoided revealing their opinions, or that individuals doubled down on their preferences. Another absolute was an increase in the desire to see a debate to resolve what are the exact issues each candidate stands for. A question that has grown as national figures like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has gained prominence for her less than traditional views.
Thus the best conclusions to be made at this moment, in reflecting on the ripples created by President Trump visiting Utica, may be that nothing has been finalized yet. The New York 22nd Congressional race remains a close battle with a lean to the Republicans. New York State remains in debt and hemorrhaging population. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is still on the path to the 2020 Democratic Primaries, with a speed bump called Cynthia Nixon in the way. And the public still wants more of the event that is the 45th leader of the world, Donald Trump.
** Additional video of protest in Utica, NY to be added shortly **