When he approached the microphone at his primary night headquarters late last night, Charles Rangel delivered one of the most bizarre and entertaining addresses given to a crowd of supporters in some time. Part filibuster, part grandpa ramble – but all Rangel – the Congressman finally declared victory as he was getting real-time results of the election from his aides in the crowd. Snapping at supporters who were talking behind him, worrying that the riser was going to collapse, Rangel's quasi speech was politics without a net.
There will be plenty of time to dissect Rangel's narrow repeat victory over Adriano Espaillat – and we still may be days away from an actual concession by the State Senator but here are a few quick notes:
1. Our Siena poll was wrong – and right. While the survey had Rangel winning by 13 points, he instead currently holds a three point lead. But Rangel's "top number" was dead-on: Siena gave Rangel 47 percent of the vote and that's what he got. The poll gave Michael Walrond seven points and he garnered eight. Yolanda Garcia only got one percent instead of the four percent that Siena predicted. But if you give all of Siena's eight percent of undecided voters to Espaillat, the numbers essentially add up. He polled at 34 percent but got about 44 percent of the vote. Again, it's important to focus on top numbers when it comes to polling and incumbents.
2. Michael Walrond could have served as a spoiler for Rangel. There was much debate about whether Walrond would siphon off more votes from Rangel because he's black or from Espaillat as a rival "change candidate." But looking at WNYC's election map, it appears that Walrond ate much more into Rangel's support. While Walrond ran essentially neck-and-neck with Espaillat in black-majority precincts, he received few votes in white and Hispanic precincts. If you buy the argument that white voters were "race neutral" in a contest pitting a Latino candidate against a black candidate, it looks like Walrond took a large bite out of Rangel's base while doing little at all in Hispanic and white neighborhoods – where Espaillat romped.
3. As expected, the race was heavily divided by the borders of Espaillat's State Senate district. City University's Steve Romalewski has exhaustively looked at the results in a variety of ways but one of the most interesting things to see is how Rangel's support is through the roof in his Harlem base and anemic once you enter Espaillat's neighborhood.
4. How much do local endorsements matter? Not surprisingly, Rangel got the backing of his Congressional colleagues and some very last-minute help from Gov. Cuomo and Public Advocate Tish James, as well as a robocall from former President Bill Clinton. But Espaillat got the endorsement of The New York Times, the teachers union, and vocal support from a team of rising Democratic stars: City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. A group of powerful players bet on the wrong horse.
5. If Rangel is true to his word, this is his last hayride. Watch the jockeying for position for 2016 – after Espaillat concedes. But could another Latino candidate try to build a house on his foundation?