Conservatives Hope Larry Kudlow Will Take On Schumer In NY

February 4, 2010 12:19 p.m.

If you listen carefully, you can hear it: the a low rumble of excitement at Republican gatherings and executive suites across New York. A growing number of conservatives say that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) is vulnerable this year, and they know the man that can beat him — CNBC host and supply-side economics uebermensch Larry Kudlow.

Kudlow has expressed some interest in mounting a bid. One of the men who’s urging him to run, self-proclaimed “Wall St. guy” and Kudlow friend John Lakian, told me today that Kudlow is at “the 70 or 80 or 90% tipping point” toward throwing his hat in the ring. According to Lakian, one of the men behind the Draft Kudlow movement on Facebook and the web, the time is right for a man with Kudlow’s extensive Wall St. connections to make a run for office.“There’s no question we’d be an underdog,” Lakian said when I asked him how tough it would be for Kudlow or any other Republican to challenge Schumer’s considerable war chest. But Lakian said that the new campaign finance rules set down in the Citizens United case would help close the money gap for Kudlow quite quickly.

“People who are worried about their taxes, particularly medium- and large-size businesses, would be more interested in helping Larry Kudlow than Chuck Schumer,” he said.

Lakian said he’s already begun meeting with buisness owners and Wall St. types about funding a potential Kudlow bid. Laws prevent him from raising any money now, but Lakian said he’s had seen interest from the business community in the idea of a Kudlow bid.

Both Lakian and one of the team who launched the Draft Kudlow movement in the first place, Buffalo, NY insurance executive Michael Caputo, are veterans of the late Rep. Jack Kemp’s (R-NY) 1988 presidential campaign. Lakian was finance chair for the bid, and Caputo was a speechwriter. Kudlow served as an adviser to Kemp in 1988, and Caputo told me it was Kudlow’s connection to the legendary tax hawk that caused Caputo to build support for a Kudlow Senate run late last month. He said he new Kudlow needed to be in office after a speech Kudlow gave at the kickoff of the Kemp Foundation back in October.

“His words appealed to me,” Caputo said. “I knew Kudlow would be one of the only figures to bring Kemp’s policies back to national politics.”

Caputo is apparently not the only one. He said he’s received 10,000 signatures to the Draft Kudlow website, and told me the site is currently averaging “about 100 supporters an hour during the business day. Caputo told me he has not spoken with Kudlow about the effort.

Based on Caputo’s past performance with drafting movements, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Kudlow jumps in the race “in a few weeks,” as Caupto predicts. Caputo ran the successful effort to draft Oliver North into the Senate race in Virginia in 1994. North was the GOP nominee that year, eventually losing to Sen. Chuck Robb.

After that, Caputo said he ran former Russian president Boris Yeltsin’s reelection campaign in 1996. Caputo said he saw many parallels between that race and a 2010 challenge to Schumer, who he called a “statist.”

“I would compare Schumer to any of the poltiburo politicians I met in the ’90s,” he said, “He’s about as out of touch with the county as any of the old line Communist candidates I ran against in Russia.”

Caputo said much of the support he’s seeing for a Kudlow bid comes from outside the New York borders. He said that tea partiers have been signing up en masse, and mainstream national conservative leaders have jumped on board as well. Earlier this week, National Review editor Rich Lowry urged people to join the effort on his twitter feed.

Conservatives point to a recent Marist poll showing Schumer’s New York approval rating below 50% for the first time since 2001 as evidence that Schumer can be picked off. But polls from New York have been mixed, with a Quinnipiac Unversity poll released around the same time as the Marist poll showing Schumer’s approval rating at 57%. Whatever the polls, Schumer is a formidable fundraiser who’s sitting on $19 million in campaign funds. The DSCC did not respond to a request for comment about Schumer potential vulnerability.

The last time conservatives got excited about a Kudlow Senate bid, he disappointed them in the end. Back in March of last year, Kudlow chose his job at CNBC over a run against Sen. Chris Dodd (D) in Connecticut. But there are signs this time might be different. Beyond what Lakian told me, the New York Post has reported several times in recent days that Kudlow is looking “very seriously” at running. Kudlow’s had meetings with the chairs of the New York Republican and Conservative parties and, and in conversations today both Lakian and Caputo talked a Kudlow announcement as a “when” rather than “if.”

“I’ve had discussions with where I asked him to run,” Lakian said. “If he doesn’t want to do do it, all it would take is a phone call to me and all this would stop.”

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