(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden criticized New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin’s record on crime, the very issue Zeldin has used as a cudgel against Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul.
At a rally Sunday for Hochul in Yonkers, New York, Biden pointed to Zeldin’s vote in the US House, where he currently serves, against his sweeping pandemic aid bill that included law enforcement funding. He also lambasted Zeldin for opposing a ban on assault weapons.
“If a politician won’t stand up to his party’s leaders to keep cops on the beat and won’t stand up to the NRA and get assault weapons off the street, do you really think he’s going to take and help your families keep safe?,” Biden said, referring to the National Rifle Association.
Biden made the last-minute stop to boost Hochul, who’s facing an unexpectedly tough re-election bid in one of the nation’s most liberal states after Zeldin surged in the final days of the campaign.
Zeldin has capitalized on voter concerns about crime to tighten the race, while Democrats have struggled to boost enthusiasm among Empire State voters.
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The president referenced the recent attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, in the couple’s San Francisco home and accused Republicans of instigating violence against their political opponents.
“There’s never been a time in my career where we’ve glorified violence based on a political basis,” he said.
Biden also criticized Zeldin’s record on abortion as well as his opposition to student debt relief and his signature infrastructure funding legislation.
The decision to bring in the president and other top Democrats just two days before the Nov. 8 vote is more typical of races in battleground states and reflects how closely fought Hochul’s re-election bid has become.
The governor maintains a 7 percentage-point advantage over Zeldin, but the Republican has significantly narrowed her lead, which stood at 14 points at the start of October, according to the FiveThirtyEight polling average.
A Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters released Oct. 18 showed Hochul with an even smaller lead of 4 percentage points.
Biden is slightly more popular in New York than he is nationwide, polls show, and bringing him in is an effort to energize the Democratic base as support for Hochul among unaffiliated voters has shown signs of shakiness. His appearance caps of a series of events headlined by high-profile Democrats in the campaign’s closing days.
Biden embraced Hochul warmly as he took the stage and noted in his remarks that she’s the first woman to serve as governor of New York.
“She’s someone who takes action,” he said. “She gets things done.”
Hochul said Biden made the visit Sunday “because he knows there’s no better place in the United States than New York.”
“Everybody wants to come to New York,” she said, noting other recent visits Biden has made to the state to tout investments by IBM and Micron.
Vice President Kamala Harris and former New York Senator Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, campaigned for Hochul on Thursday and former President Bill Clinton rallied on her behalf on Saturday in Brooklyn.
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Zeldin has drawn large crowds during the final stretch, and top Republicans — including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential hopeful, and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin — have campaigned for him as well.
Former President Donald Trump, who is widely unpopular in New York where he used to live, has endorsed Zeldin but hasn’t recently campaigned for him. Trump held a rally in Miami on Sunday with Senator Marco Rubio.
Zeldin, a close ally of Trump’s, voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results — a move Hochul has turned into an attack line.
The president has visited five states in four days, including speaking at a rally in Pennsylvania Saturday with former President Barack Obama aimed at boosting the state’s Democratic senate and gubernatorial candidates.
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–With assistance from Emma Court.
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