George Pataki, Currently Polling at ‘—,’ Is Running for President

The Republican field grows, but to what end?

George Pataki, former governor of New York, sternly ties his tie in his presidential campaign launch video.
National Journal
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Matt Berman
May 28, 2015, 5:33 a.m.

George Pataki, the former three-term Republican governor of New York, announced in a video Thursday that he is officially running for president. The question for him now, faced with an ever-growing pool of competition and new polling showing his support as negligible, is if anyone will notice.

Pataki’s campaign-announcement video tries to pack in everything that he’d like voters to know about him. “As governor of New York, George Pataki led during the worst terrorist attack the U.S. had seen on American soil,” a slide reads, as one of many allusions to the September 11 terrorist attacks. He cares about “We the People” and not partisan politics. He ties his tie like he means it, with his wife at his side. He’s the kind of guy who tells a group of people assembled at the New Hampshire American Legion, “God bless you all, and lunch is on me.” And there are quick visual nods to the American flag, Abraham Lincoln, the moon walk, the WWII flag-raising at Iwo Jima, and the 9/11 Tribute in Light

But despite the four-minute-long video, it’s hard to say what George Pataki is doing running for president. Pataki, who finished his run as governor at the end of 2006, has toyed with campaigns in the past. But this is the first time he’s actually jumping in, even though the Republican field is already crowded and his own national recognition has relatively faded.

Much of the polling right now for the 2016 GOP field doesn’t actually ask voters how they feel about Pataki. But polls that do aren’t showing much for him to feel good about. A Quinnipiac poll released Thursday morning found that Pataki isn’t registering among Republicans and Republican-leaners. In that poll, with a 3.8 percent margin of error in the GOP sample, just 1 percent of men who either are or lean Republican and 1 percent of Republican or Republican leaners who call themselves “somewhat” conservative said they’d vote for Pataki, bringing his total support to, as the poll writes it, “—.”

Pataki’s not the only person who comes up empty: Rick Santorum, who announced his own campaign for president on Wednesday, does, too. But Pataki also gets the dash when Republicans are asked who their second choice would be (Santorum pulls 2 percent here). Sixty-nine percent of Republican voters, per Quinnipiac, haven’t heard enough about Pataki to have an opinion about him one way or the other.

That national polling right now is enough to suggest that he’ll have a very hard time cracking the tier of candidates who’ll be welcomed to the coming Republican debates. Pataki, though, is trying to stake his campaign on New Hampshire, where he’ll officially announce his campaign Thursday morning. It’s unclear what kind of support he has there, since he has not been included in most in-state polling—he’s absent from Real Clear Politicspoll-tracking for the state with a 14-person field. 

Launch day could wind up being the most notable day in Pataki’s 2016 presidential campaign. Unless he gets very, very lucky.

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