April 20, 2024

The specter of Donald Trump loomed large over Tuesday’s special election in New York, helping power Democratic candidate Tom Suozzi to victory, according to exclusive polling data.

Even though the former president’s name was not on the ballot, more than a third of Democrats said the most important issue for them in the election was ‘stopping Donald Trump.’

The second most important issue, cited by 27 percent, was ‘threats to democracy.

On the other side, border security was by far the most critical factor, even in an election so far from the frontier with Mexico.

Suozzi defeated Republican Mazi Pilip to pick up the seat left vacant when fantasist George Santos, also a Republican, was expelled from Congress

Democratic candidate Tom Suozzi celebrates his victory in the special election to replace Republican Rep. George Santos. His victory was powered by voters thinking about Trump

J.L. Partners polled 500 people who had already voted or who intended to vote in New York's third congressional district, which extends from the city through Long Island.

J.L. Partners polled 500 people who had already voted or who intended to vote in New York’s third congressional district, which extends from the city through Long Island.

The gain will reassure Democrats that they can perform strongly in suburban communities, a critical battleground in November. 

Strategists on left and right will be poring over the result for lessons for November’s presidential election. 

To test voting patterns, J.L. Partners polled 500 people who had already voted or who intended to vote in New York’s third congressional district, which extends from the city through Long Island. The fieldwork was conducted immediately before the election, from Feb. 10 to 12.

Pollster James Johnson cautioned against extrapolating too much from special elections.

But he said not enough Republicans turned out on polling to day to catch up with Suozzi’s big lead in early voting. 

‘One of the main reasons Democrats did go to the polls was, as they told us, to ‘stop Donald Trump’ and due to concerns about “threats to democracy,”‘ he said.

‘Those concerns were prevalent for independents too and was more important in driving voter turnout in this election than the border. Suozzi’s tough border stance probably helped him neutralize that issue too.’

In fact, the border was also the third most important issue for Democrats.

In contrast, the border and immigrants were cited by 68 percent of Republicans as the issue they were most motivated by, dwarfing other factors such as inflation (seven percent) and crime (five percent).

The border was by far the most important issue for Republicans, beating out inflation, crime and abortion in the minds of voters

The border was by far the most important issue for Republicans, beating out inflation, crime and abortion in the minds of voters

Independents were more divided. The border was the number one issue, but it was only slight ahead of 'stopping Donald Trump' as motivation for voters

Independents were more divided. The border was the number one issue, but it was only slight ahead of ‘stopping Donald Trump’ as motivation for voters

Republican congressional candidate Mazi Pilip speaks to supporters after conceding to her opponent on Tuesday night. She was criticized from being absent from the campaign

Republican congressional candidate Mazi Pilip speaks to supporters after conceding to her opponent on Tuesday night. She was criticized from being absent from the campaign

New York media has been filled with images of asylum seekers lining up for hotel rooms in the city and warnings that services simply cannot cope with an influx of more than 170,000 people.

Last week, police arrested seven migrants in the Bronx in raids targeting a gang using scooters to rob people of mobile phones. 

Suozzi leaned into the issue, challenging his Republican rival on crime and taxes as well as immigration.

Come November, added Johnson, Trump’s grip on the Republican base will probably help candidates.

‘Things will be very different in November: though Trump boosted Democrat turnout yesterday, he could enhance Republican turnout at a general election. A better and more visible Republican candidate will help the GOP too. But at this election concerns about Trump and democracy simply drove Democrats to vote in bigger numbers than Republicans did — and for Tom Suozzi that’s all that mattered.’

'Donald Trump lost again tonight,' said Joe Biden's 2024 campaign. 'When Republicans run on Trump's extreme agenda – even in a Republican-held seat – voters reject them.'

‘Donald Trump lost again tonight,’ said Joe Biden’s 2024 campaign. ‘When Republicans run on Trump’s extreme agenda – even in a Republican-held seat – voters reject them.’

However, the role of Trump in the election was seized on by Democrats and rival Republicans.

The campaign of Nikki Haley, who is still running against Trump for the Republican nomination, said it supported the case that the former South Carolina governor was more electable. 

‘We just lost another winnable Republican House seat because voters overwhelmingly reject Donald Trump,’ said spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas. ‘Until Republicans wake up, we will continue to lose.’

And the Biden-Harris 2024 campaign said voters had once again rejected Trump’s ‘chaos.’

The following is a statement from Biden-Harris 2024 Campaign Manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez on the results of tonight’s special election in New York’s 3rd Congressional District.

‘Donald Trump lost again tonight,’ said campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez. ‘When Republicans run on Trump’s extreme agenda – even in a Republican-held seat – voters reject them.’