Why the New York special election for George Santos’ seat matters

Feb 13, 2024, 8:25 AM | Updated: 8:26 am

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., leaves the Capitol after being expelled from the House of Representativ...

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., leaves the Capitol after being expelled from the House of Representatives, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, in Washington. The House has voted to expel Santos following a critical ethics report on his conduct that included converting campaign donations for his own use, making him just the sixth member in the chamber’s history to be ousted by his colleagues. Expulsion requires support from two-third of the House. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)

(AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)

Tune in to Dave & Dujanovic!

(CNN) — Democrats, when confronted with President Joe Biden’s poor polling numbers, often counter with some form of the following: “Polls are polls, but when people vote, Democrats are doing well.”

The idea being that Democrats have done well in major special and off-year elections since the 2022 midterms.

The special election in New York’s 3rd Congressional District to succeed the infamous George Santos offers perhaps the best chance to test Democrats’ theory ahead of the presidential election.

Does former Rep. Tom Suozzi win in yet another example of Democrats defying national polling trends? Or does Nassau County Legislator Mazi Pilip secure victory, showing how Republicans are winning pivotal races in places Biden comfortably won in 2020?

Yes, we’re looking at just one election on Long Island, but it’s a fascinating one.

As we enter Election Day, the race seems far too close to call. A Newsday/Siena College poll released last week put Suozzi at 48% and Pilip at 44%, a result well within the margin of error. Throw in forecasted bad weather in this Nassau County and eastern Queens district, and we really can’t be certain who will emerge victorious.

The fact that the race is tight makes sense if you look at the district’s recent voting record. I mentioned that Biden carried the seat in 2020 (by 8 points), but local Republicans have been dominating since. They did well in 2023’s local races. GOP candidates for governor and US Senate won the district by margins between 4 and 12 points in 2022, as did Santos.

This means that even a narrow Suozzi victory would be impressive for Democrats given how well Republicans have done in other elections in the area.

Indeed, outside of Long Island, Democrats did well in last year’s big elections. They won the Kentucky gubernatorial election, maintained their majority in the Virginia Senate and flipped the Virginia House. The candidate favored by Democrats won a Wisconsin Supreme Court race, which gave the more liberal justices a majority on that court.

A lot of analysts (myself included) have been skeptical about making too much of these results. Turnout in off-year elections is often low. Voters who have been showing up for these off-year races have been more Democratic-leaning than their share of all registered voters in the same states and districts     .

Of course, we’re now in a presidential election year, and there are also signs that these off-year results may have been pointing at something important. Yes, the turnout may have been more Democratic than among all registered voters. But the turnout in the presidential election may be as well.

Most national pollsters are gauging responses from registered voters. Not all registered voters will cast a ballot in the presidential election. When pollsters such as Ipsos and The New York Times have honed on either those certain to vote or those likely to vote this year, Biden has done significantly better against his likely Republican opponent, Donald Trump. Ipsos, for example, recently showed a 5-point lead for the former president among registered voters becoming a tie among those certain to vote.

A Suozzi win would further prove the point that Democrats do well when voters are treated to an actual campaign.

On the other hand, a win by Pilip would give us a different narrative. This is the only federal election since the midterms that has been remotely competitive. All the other competitive races were state elections, and voting patterns between US House and presidential elections are far more correlated than they are for state offices and presidential elections.

While it would be easy to dismiss a Pilip win by saying that Long Island has swung to the right since 2020, the rest of the country may have as well. Remember that in the last high-turnout election (the 2022 midterms), Republicans won control of the US House. They did so while winning the House popular vote by 3 points.

That Republican victory represented a 6-point swing from the 2020 House elections. Moreover, that 3-point Republican edge in 2022 looks a lot like Trump’s current advantage over Biden among registered voters nationally. In other words, it’s possible that the national environment hasn’t moved all that much from the last time Republicans secured an important win.

So a victory by Pilip would suggest that perhaps things aren’t all that different from where we were in 2022. This would mean that we have a closely divided electorate, but one with which Republicans are favored.

Either way, you can bet your last dollar that both sides will try to spin the New York special election result. What else would you expect when there’s been more than $10 million spent on ads, which I can report have been playing nonstop on local television.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


United Airlines aircrafts are parked at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey,...

Ross Levitt, Pete Muntean and Samantha Delouya, CNN

United to resume non-stop service from US to Israel

United Airlines said it will resume flights from the United States to Israel beginning in March.

12 hours ago

Nasser hospital in the city of Khan Younis, Gaza, on December 22, 2020....

Kareem Khadder and Zeena Saifi, CNN

‘We are completely besieged’: One of last doctors left in Gaza’s Nasser hospital says patients’ fate no longer in his control

One of the doctors remaining in Gaza's Nasser hospital has described a “catastrophic” situation a week into the Israeli forces’ siege.

14 hours ago

Members of the Palestinian civil defense extinguish a fire in a building in the east of Rafah, the ...

Richard Roth and Tara John, CNN

US proposes a ‘temporary ceasefire’ in Gaza in draft UN resolution

The United States has proposed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas

2 days ago

Exercise particularly reduced risk of death for women, according to the data....

Madeline Holcombe, CNN

Women might lower their risk for cardiovascular disease by twice the amount as men with exercise

The benefits of exercise are great for everyone – but may be even better for women, according to a new study.

3 days ago

The 2024 BAFTA Film Awards are being presented on Sunday at the Royal Festival Hall in London, Engl...

Alli Rosenbloom and Thomas Page, CNN

BAFTA Awards 2024: See who won

“Oppenheimer” was a big winner at the 2024 BAFTA Film Awards, which were presented Sunday at the Royal Festival Hall.

3 days ago

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump carries a pair of his new signa...

Kate Sullivan, CNN

Trump launches sneaker line a day after judge’s order to pay nearly $355 million

Donald Trump launched a sneaker line, a day after he and his companies were ordered by a judge to pay nearly $355 million.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Why the New York special election for George Santos’ seat matters