Last week we posted our first House Projection – one of the items in the new J -Meter, in which we follow races with a Jewish contender, and project the number of Jewish House members after the next election. As we’ve explained, we expect the number of Jewish representatives to go down to 24 following the 2012 November election, from the 27 elected in 2010.
Obviously, when such assessment is published, objections arise. And while not many disputed most of what we’ve been saying, a complaint was issued from Republican Jewish quarters over our decision not to include the NY-01 race as one in which potential for Jewish representation exists. New York’s First District is one in which a Jewish Republican contender, Randy Altschuler, was very narrowly beaten in 2010 by the current Congressman Tim Bishop, and is running again. About a month ago, the New York Times described this race as “problematic” for Democrats:
On Long Island, Mr. Bishop, a five-term Democrat, is girding for a rematch with Randy Altschuler, a successful Republican businessman who nearly defeated the congressman in 2010. Mr. Altschuler is an aggressive campaigner, having spent $2.9 million of his own money in 2010. Mr. Altschuler got a lift recently when he received the endorsement of the Independence Party. That could make a difference, Republicans say, given that Mr. Altschuler lost to Mr. Bishop by a slim margin in the moderate district, which stretches across the eastern half of Long Island.
There are a couple of things to consider regarding this race and its significance to our House Projection:
1. Criteria: As we specifically state on the House Projection page, we decided to only include in our list races of sitting Jewish legislators, races ranked as Toss-Up, races in which the incumbent is leaving, races in which the incumbent is likely to lose (in most cases, we used the ranking from the Cook Report) or races in merged and new districts. The NY-01 race doesn’t really match the criteria: It is ranked by the Cook Report (April 26, 2012) as “lean Democratic”; the current Congressman isn’t leaving, the district is not new.
2. Competitiveness: On the other hand, this race is clearly more competitive than many other races. Election Projection ranks it as “weak Dem hold”. Sabato’s Crystal Ball ranks it a “lean” Democratic, the weakest possible tendency towards one of the sides – but not yet a toss up. And most relevant: The Rothenberg Political Report ranks it as “pure toss up”.
3. Polls: There aren’t many, but according to one recent (Bishop commissioned) poll, Bishop seems to be leading the race. Can it be believed? No. But we also don’t have any good evidence with which to counter it.
4. Primary: This race is not yet finalized. While Altschuler seems to have an advantage, he is not yet the candidate and is challenged for the right to run against Bishop.
5. Party: Why Jewish Republicans are warily eyeing this race is obvious: It is their only real chance (as of now) to have a second Jewish House member following the 2012 election. We projected that Rep. Eric Cantor will remain the sole Jewish Republican in the House.
Bottom line: Based on all the above evidence and commentary, we feel that this race does deserve more attention than other races we decided not to include in our projection. Thus, it has been added to our table of House candidates. However – and this is an important however – we also decided not to currently change our overall projection of expected Jewish seats in the House. Namely, we add Altschuler to the list, but are far from convinced that he will be winning this race.