By Jill Colvin
MANHATTAN — Republicans could win big on Tuesday in crucial races across the state, recent polls suggest.
While Manhattan's congressional and local state senate seats will almost certainly stay blue, about half a dozen Democratic state house seats are currently up for grabs, according to the latest Cook Political Report. There's a possibility of Democrats losing their thin majority in the State Senate in Albany as well.
For Republicans, the city has often seemed like a lonely place. Democrats outnumber GOP voters nearly 7-to-1 in Manhattan and 6-to-1 citywide.
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani recently joked that he'd considered protecting Republicans under an endangered species act.
"I thought we needed a little extra food or protection for the few of us left," he mused.
But this time around, Republicans seem to have beefed up their ranks.
The most recent Siena poll shows Republican state-wide candidates making dramatic gains, with attorney general candidate Dan Donovan and comptroller hopeful Harry Wilson now neck-and-neck with their Democratic opponents.
Just last month, Wilson was 17 points behind incumbent Democrat Tom DiNapoli in the race for state comptroller, but Wilson managed to close the gap and is now tied at 44 percent, the Siena poll said.
Wilson, a former hedge fund manager, has been endorsed by most of the major papers, including the New York Post, Daily News and New York Times.
"It's absolutely incredible to see the energy people are putting behind these elections," said Kyle Collins, the New York City Vice Chairman of the New York College Republicans.
"People are seeing what's going on in their country, and it's unacceptable," he said.
Republican Paul Niehaus, who is running against incumbent Jonathan Bing to represent the 73rd Assembly District on the Upper East Side, said that he's been blown away by the support he's felt from both sides of the aisle.
"I think that shows the massive enthusiasm that Republicans are getting this year," said Niehaus as he stood in the frigid morning cold, handing out fliers outside the 77th Street station on Lexington Avenue early Monday morning.
He said he'd met many charged Republicans as well as Democrats who are sick and tired of what they’ve seen in Albany and are looking for change.
Some voters looking for change nationally have jumped aboard the conservative Tea Party movement, which has been a double-edged sword for Republican voters in New York.
On one hand, the movement has energized the party, giving it a fervor reminiscent of the Obamamania that swept the country in 2008. But its radical message has also alienated some voters, especially in Manhattan, where business-minded moderation has been a proven recipe for success.
Republican strategist Mike Edelman said that having divisive gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino at the top of the ticket could hurt the party’s chances Tuesday, leading some to stay home.
"He’s been a great disappointment to Republicans who thought they had a chance to unseat someone like Cuomo," Edelman said.
Only 12 percent of city voters intend to vote for Paladino, according to a recent Wall Street Journal poll. A whopping 30 percent of registered Republicans plan to vote for Cuomo instead.
"I voted for Cuomo, no doubt about it, Paladino’s insane," Lenox Terrace resident James Warren, 58, said Tuesday. "He thinks he can say whatever he wants to say to the public, we shouldn’t ignore these kind of people when they talk like that.”
But Chris Edwards, vice president of the New York Young Republic Club, said that Manhattan Republicans are energized, regardless of whether or not they've been turned off by the brash Buffalo developer, whose campaign has been marred by anti-gay comments and other gaffes.
"We’re very excited," said Edwards, who lives in Midtown East. "I don’t think it impacts lower down the ticket at all."
Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf said that Republicans have been gradually gaining ground across the state.
And if candidates like Queens State Senator Joseph Addabbo lose, he said, "It tells you that the Republicans have gained new strength within the city itself."
Steven Greenberg, a pollster with the Siena Research Institute, credits the recent Republican bump in the polls to the fact that voters have only recently begun to pay attention to the races, just as allegations, including a damning Inspector General's report, have emerged putting the focus on Democratic corruption in Albany.
Nonetheless, he and others said that what will make the difference in the tightest races is turnout on Election Day.
But no matter what happens, Edwards said that he sees the future from here as much more friendly to Republicans across the borough.
"We think we’re definitely in the rebound," he said. "The future is very strong."
Collins agreed that even if Republicans don’t win their Manhattan races this time around, support is growing, especially for moderate candidates like Donovan.
"I think in New York City, you’re starting to see a lot of people open their eyes," he said.