‘Orange man bad’ Trump attacks will backfire on Hochul, Lee Zeldin predicts

Republican nominee for governor Rep. Lee Zeldin is sticking by former President Donald Trump despite the political risks in in his blue-state challenge of Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul.

“There are people who are obsessed over this theory that the top three issues of New Yorkers are orange man bad, orange man bad, orange man bad,” Zeldin said at a Manhattan press conference.

The GOP nominee said he might even campaign alongside Trump ahead of the Nov. 8 election while arguing “a whole lot of independents and Democrats” see rising crime and inflation as more concerning issues.

The defense of the embattled 45th president came just hours after Hochul unleashed a $2 million statewide ad blitz blasting Zeldin over his opposition to abortion rights and ongoing ties to Trump and his unfounded claims about the 2020 presidential election.

Republican nominee for governor Rep. Lee Zeldin speaks about an NY Post cover about Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Robert Miller
Hochul continues to publicly bash former President Donald Trump.
Matthew McDermott

“Zeldin’s campaign is more focused on appealing to the far-right than delivering results for New Yorkers. On issue after issue, he’s made it clear that he would bring the same dangerous MAGA agenda to New York if elected governor,” Hochul campaign spokesman Jerrel Harvey said Tuesday.

Polling has consistently showed that roughly two-thirds of New Yorkers have an unfavorable view of Trump though he remains overwhelmingly popular among GOP voters, who are outnumbered by registered Dems by roughly two-to-one in New York

Just 32% of likely voters have a favorable opinion of Trump in his home state while 63% view him unfavorable, with just 5% having no strong feelings either way, according to an early August Siena College poll that showed Zeldin down 39% to 53% against Hochul.

“Nothing proves how out-of-touch Lee Zeldin is like saying he would campaign with Donald Trump in a state the former president lost by a whopping 23 points,” Harvey said in the statement.

Zeldin is defending former Trump from the critics.
Robert Miller

A poll released in recent days suggests Zeldin has narrowed the gap to single digits while a late August poll suggested Hochul remains ahead by a large margin.

Republicans have not won a statewide election since former Gov. George Pataki won a third term in office in 2002 and some political experts say Zeldin needs to do more to appeal to disaffected Democrats and independent voters to win.

“Embracing Trump. Not a winning strategy,” Pataki told The Post Tuesday.

Questions about his Trump ties follows months of incessant attacks by Hochul and allies on issues like abortion and gun rights following controversial decisions by a U.S. Supreme Court packed by justices appointed by Trump.

The Long Island congressman has stuck by him through two impeachments and other scandals that followed the real estate magnate out of office, with Trump helping Zeldin raise $1.5 million at a New Jersey fundraiser after staying out of the GOP primary for governor.

Campaign filings from mid-July showed Hochul with $11.7 million on hand in mid-July compared to just $1.57 million for Zeldin, whose campaign experts say continues to keep a paradoxical relationship with the ex-president.

Trump helped Zeldin raise $1.5 million for his campaign.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

“Trump helps him raise money and helps Zeldin to lose to Hochul,” political consultant Hank Sheinkopf said in a text.

Zeldin has argued that his 2020 votes against certifying presidential election results from Pennsylvania and Arizona were a matter of constitutional principal rather than partisan loyalty while noting that he condemned the violence seen at the US Capitol on Jan. 6.

“What happened in the name of the pandemic is that you had non-state legislative actors, changing the way the laws were administered on their own without seeking permission,” Zeldin said Tuesday.

Hochul called out Zeldin for his opposition to abortion rights and connection to Trump.
Robert Miller

He claimed that Democratic attacks on his relationship to Trump will ultimately blow up in their faces while renewing attacks on Hochul over crime, the economy and her ongoing refusal to say exactly when and where she will debate him.

“Go tell the owners of Anne’s Pancakes in the Southern Tier, that this campaign is about Donald Trump instead of making sure that they are able to survive,” Zeldin said Tuesday.

Democrats can spend millions bashing him over Trump, but Zeldin told reporters Tuesday he is betting the the joke will be on them once all the ballots get counted after the final days of voting on Nov. 9.

“One candidate is talking about reversing the attacks on our wallets or safety of freedom and volunteering our kids education and saving the state,” he told reporters.

“And on the other side – when we’re battling for independent undecided voters – and that’s your focus, Donald Trump? That’s your post-mortem,” he added.