Wendy E. Long, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in New York, and Donald G.M. Coon III, the Jefferson County GOP chairman and one of her early backers, used the exact same three-word phrase to describe the possibility of defeating U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., on Nov. 6.
“It's not impossible,” they both said.
Mrs. Long worked to convince about 100 fellow Republicans of that during a speech Thursday night at the Best Western Carriage House Inn on Washington Street at the county party's annual fall dinner. Brandishing her brand of fiscal conservatism, Mrs. Long told the audience the polls, pundits and mainstream media, who sometimes use her last name to describe her chances, are wrong.
The challenges are formidable. New York has an overwhelming Democratic registration advantage, which is even more potent in a year when the president is up for election. Mrs. Gillibrand's fundraising also has far outpaced Mrs. Long's. House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, seemed to dismiss her candidacy when he told delegates to the GOP convention over the summer that New York didn't have a competitive Senate election.
The Long campaign, though, suggested its internal polling numbers don't jibe with the 40-point lead the Siena College Research Institute has said Mrs. Gillibrand owns. Though her staff declined to give specific numbers, Robert Ryan, Mrs. Long's spokesman, said: “We found many surprising things about Senator Gillibrand's popularity, or lack thereof.”
Mrs. Long faulted the “mainstream media” for putting its thumb on the scale in Mrs. Gillibrand's favor, and her campaign noted a super-political action committee was airing ads in New York against Mrs. Gillibrand. Mrs. Long doesn't have ads of her own.
Her message to the assembled Republican graybeards hewed to a stringent fiscal conservatism. She said she would have voted against raising the debt ceiling, explaining later that emergency cuts must be made to nonmilitary discretionary spending.
“I think we should just start slashing,” she said.
The candidate lauded Republican nominee Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan's approach to the Medicare and Social Security programs, and said Democrats were “whistling past the graveyard” on the safety-net programs.
She also criticized Mrs. Gillibrand, whom she described as the most liberal senator in the United States based on a National Journal ranking.
In addition, she said she would support efforts to bring a missile defense site to Fort Drum, and said she didn't have a position on the Bv7 water plan, which would allow the water levels on St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario to fluctuate more naturally.
Many people in the crowd, approached by a reporter for comment about Mrs. Long's campaign, said they didn't follow it closely enough to give an informed opinion. But some of those who did said her chances were “excellent.” Others were less sanguine.
“I think there's going to be a groundswell of conservative thought,” said Charles F. Ruggiero, the head of the Jefferson County tea party.
Bart S. Bonner, a Watertown man active in local conservative causes, called Mrs. Long's candidacy “courageous” but wasn't optimistic about her chances.
“I think she's going to have a difficult time,” Mr. Bonner said, citing overwhelming Democratic money advantages and the enrollment edge.
At an editorial board meeting with the Watertown Daily Times before her appearance, Mrs. Long said the reception she's received on the road has been better than the one she's received in the media. And of her chances?
“It's not impossible,” she said. “The fight is worth fighting. We'll see what happens.”