WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - A final thought on election 2020.
Three weeks ago, I wrote that Elise Stefanik had a spectacularly good election night.
And as far as election night itself goes, she did. When all the votes cast on election day and in early voting were counted, Stefanik walloped Democrat Tedra Cobb by more than 70,000 votes, a staggering 65 percent of the ballots cast.
But the election night numbers did not include write-in votes, which have now been added into the totals and they broke heavily for Tedra Cobb.
With complete numbers now available in the race for the 21st congressional district, let me mildly revise what I said three weeks ago: Elise Stefanik had a very good election, all things considered.
Spectacular? You decide.
By my count, she beat Cobb by 188,106 to 131,574, or 59 percent to 41 percent. That’s a big win, bigger than she beat Cobb in 2018, and remember: this time around, Cobb was a better, more focused candidate who had a lot of money to back her.
But Stefanik’s win this year is more in line with past victories - in 2018, she beat Cobb with 57 percent. And it’s a smaller margin than 2016, when Stefanik beat a weak candidate by 70,000 votes.
Stefanik’s “day of” vote was just under 165,000. Given that her total vote ends up being 188,000, one thing is clear: her strength was “day of” voting, not write-ins. Cobb, on the other hand, had 91,000 “day of” votes and ended up with a total vote of 131,000, meaning she added 40,000 write-ins.
This mirrors what happened with Democrats across the country; they out-performed Republicans when it came to write-ins, while Republicans voted much more often on election day itself.
Does any of this matter? Not really. Stefanik still beat Cobb by a lot, and set herself up for whatever comes next. Since election day, she’s made a number of appearances on Fox News and some of its further right brethren like Newsmax TV. She’s spent most of her time promoting the number of incoming Republican woman to congress - her political action committee helped get many of them elected.
She’s also gone radio silent when it comes to questions we (and other news organizations) have asked, like: does she recognize Joe Biden as the president-elect? And does she support President Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq?
To be clear, all the political incentives line up on the side of not answering those questions. As I’ve noted before, this is Trump country, a large part of Stefanik’s base is Trump’s base and it does her absolutely no good politically to do anything to put daylight between herself and that base.
Especially if she wants a big future in Republican politics. What is that future? Stefanik is back to attacking Governor Cuomo regularly on her Twitter feed, and there’s some (very) low level chatter she might run for governor in 2022. But running against a Democrat, even Cuomo, in deeply blue New York is a guarantee of losing, and she would give up her seat in congress.
Of course, there’s also the distinct possibility that the 21st congressional district - which stretches from Watertown to the south to Plattsburgh to the north to the Albany area to the east, and which now has a 46,000 Republican registration edge - may not exist in a couple of years. The state is about the undergo “redistricting,” in which the lines of each congressional district are redrawn. In theory, the lines of each congressional district will be redrawn on a non-partisan basis, but with Democrats in firm control of the state legislature, they can target Stefanik’s district.
So she has some choices to make, and all of them bring risk. But it’s hard to imagine her being in a much stronger position.