A Look Back: Snapshots from the Political Insiders' Campaign Roundtable

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Why did the Rick Lazio campaign fall flat on its face? What accounted for Carl Paladino's grassroots appeal? Who took whom seriously? What gave Eric Schneiderman the winning edge? Was Andrew Cuomo really a control freak?

All these questions were answered, analyzed and fought over by the political consultants and insiders that made the 2010 election campaigns tick. Here are the best quotes from a political roundtable hosted by The New School's Center for New York City Affairs.

Alec Hamilton/WNYC

"The election was really close in the general polls all the way up to the end. In fact, the night before, we did not think that we were necessarily going to win." —Emily Arsenault, campaign manager for Eric Schneiderman's race for NYS Attorney General.

Alec Hamilton/WNYC

"We had this early poll and it showed us specifically that if Kathleen Rice got Cuomo's endorsement that we were done. She had so many advantages to begin with, money not being the least, but having that would be nearly fatal to us. So to some extent, while the message strategy was 'we're the most progressive in the race,' and framing the race about who's the most progressive, the other correlative strategy was 'how do we stop Andrew Cuomo from endorsing Kathleen Rice.'" —Blake Zeff, lead strategist on Eric Schneiderman's successful campaign for NYS Attorney General.

Alec Hamilton/WNYC

"I think there's just a general misconception out there, that a Mike [Bloomberg] endorsement automatically means that some secret ten million dollar check comes rolling in....He's not a guy that gets on the phone and raises money. He might do it for a cause that he cares about but it doesn't matter if it's Dan Donovan, or any candidate anywhere, that's just not what he does. Might there come a case sometime when he says 'I'm going to throw myself into fundraising?' It's possible, but that wasn't, and was never going to be ours."—Bradley Tusk, Dan Donovan's campaign manager in his race for NYS Attorney General, on getting Bloomberg's endorsement. Tusk also worked as the campaign manager for Mayor Bloomberg's successful 2009 reelection bid.

Alec Hamilton/WNYC

"I think it was a very grassroots message that drew out the base core of the Republican party in the state, because Carl Paladino stood for something, and stood for it very strongly, as opposed to Rick, who was a nice guy, but I think they felt was a milquetoast candidate." —John Haggerty, worked on Carl Paladino's campaign for NYS Governor.

Alec Hamilton/WNYC
Words of wisdom from Michael Caputo, campaign director for Carl Paladino, Republican candidate for NYS Governor:

"We found that to be very problematic. Not the pornography but the perceived racism. We found that to be a bullet to the head. It was something that we had to look at very carefully. I actually had the dubious honor of going through Carl's outbox." (On Paladino's controversial emails.)

"I do believe that Carl fell in love with the kerplunk of the turd in the punchbowl." (On Paladino's self-inflicted wounds in the campaign.)

"We kind of called it the Hugh Heffner Strategy: It'll be much more fun with three of us." (On being courted for GOP delegates by Steve Levy, the Democrat-turned-Republican candidate for governor.)

Alec Hamilton/WNYC

"One of the perceptions that emerged from this was that everytime a lightswitch got turned on, Andrew had to say 'yes.' That was not the case. Andrew struck a good middle ground of weighing in on the big decisions, as he should have, and delegating on large to medium to smaller decisions that he didn't need to be involved in."—Phil Singer, senior adviser and consultant for Andrew Cuomo's successful 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

Alec Hamilton/WNYC

"The media complains about the weather then they come out and cause the rain....There was a two week period when the campaign put out every single day a release on something on the economy, and got next to no coverage, even from the blogs. But as soon as you said anything about the mosque, that's all that was covered. So there was this impression that's all Rick talked about, but that was because that's all the media covered."— Kevin Fullington, who served as Rick Lazio's campaign manager in the race for NYS Governor.

Alec Hamilton/WNYC

"That was a classic lesson on the nuances of polling not able to be communicated through the media or from the pollsters themselves." —Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, on the widely divergent polls numbers from different polling institutes for the gubernatorial race.

Alec Hamilton/WNYC

"To hammer something home you need resources. And at the end of the day it doesn't matter how poignant your message may be, you still need to get it out to people. So that was always sort of the obstacle we had to overcome." —Marcus Reese, campaign manager for Republican Attorney General candidate Dan Donovan, on campaigning on the message of "being an Albany outsider."

Alec Hamilton/WNYC

"We never intended running as Republican. When Steve and I first started talking about the run for governor almost two years ago, the idea was a Democratic primary. And the idea was if Paterson stayed in and Cuomo challenged, a fiscally conservative Democrat from the suburbs might have a chance against two liberal city Democrats splitting the vote. That was the original idea."—Michael Dawidziak, a political consultant for Steve Levy in his campaign to be elected NYS Governor.

Alec Hamilton/WNYC

"We wouldn't acknowledge that he exists. People would ask Rick about Carl, and up until the last two months of the campaign, getting him to even say "Paladino" was very difficult, by design, because we were running sort of the classic frontrunner campaign in the primary. Then I remember the Sienna Poll coming out that Saturday, and it was really disaster zone, and it was four days to go so there was really nothing we could do. And it's interesting because a lot of establishment Republicans ran the same sort of campaign that we did against Tea Party candidates, and every public poll, and probably their own internal poll, up until the last about week showed them up by about 20 points." —Barney Keller, press secretary for Rick Lazio.

Alec Hamilton/WNYC

"There was a bit of fundraising fatigue as well. By the time Dan got into the race and by the time we were going around to start raising money, people were like 'hey, you're number six in line.' So that was incredibly difficult as well."−Virginia Lam, communications director for Dan Donovan's campaign for NYS Attorney General.


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