Dick Cheney popped into New York this week to raise money for Rep. Vito Fossella’s re-election campaign — and the vice president brought in enough cash to offset any damage he did to Fossella in the eyes of Brooklyn voters, experts said.
The widely unpopular veep endorsed Fossella (R–Bay Ridge) at an Upper East Side fete on April 21, but opponents were more than pleased that Fossella had called in a man described by his critics as a “Prince of Darkness” to fill the coffers.
“Who is Vito Fossella going to be beholden to if he is elected?” Democratic candidate Steve Harrison asked a crowd of protestors outside the 71st Street home of billionaire industrialist David Koch, who hosted the fundraiser. “It will be Dick Cheney.
“These are not people from whom you [should] accept campaign contributions — these are the people to whom you give campaign contributions back when you find out who they are,” added Harrison, who got 43 percent of the vote against the cash-rich Fossella in 2006.
Political experts say Fossella took only a small risk in appearing with Cheney — who has a disapproval rating of 71 percent, polls show — because he brings in the deep-pocket crowd.
Risk or not, organizers were careful to prevent any news photo op that might picture the two men together.
Experts say that’s the way such things are done.
“There is a hemispheric divide in politics between fundraising and campaigning for votes,” said political consultant Gerry O’Brien. “The people who are your target audience as voters are often not the same people who you solicit for funds.”
So shaking hands with Cheney won’t lose votes for the city’s lone GOP congressman in predominantly Republican Bay Ridge, O’Brien said.
“The downside is negligible,” he added. “Anyone who foams at the mouth at the mention of Dick Cheney wasn’t going to vote for Vito in the first place.”
But New York University professor Steven Brams said that Fossella’s opponents — namely Harrison and Councilman Domenic Recchia — can use Fossella’s canoodle with Cheney as a weapon.
“Endorsements don’t mean all that much,” Brams said. “But if the opposition takes it up, it could have a negative effect on his campaign.”
But Fossella’s camp isn’t concerned. “The event was very successful and will allow us to run an aggressive campaign highlighting Vito’s good work on behalf of the people of southwest Brooklyn,” said Fossella spokeswoman Georgea Kaye.