• Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

How Gov. Hochul could get a political lift as a Taylor Swift fan

How Gov. Hochul could get a political lift as a Taylor Swift fan

There’s a Swiftie in New York’s Executive Mansion.

Gov. Hochul, arguably the most politically powerful Taylor Swift fan in the State of New York, has quoted the ultrapopular singer-songwriter, deemed her a “philosopher” and used the song “Welcome to New York” as music at an important speech to the Legislature. 

Two weeks ago, when Swift released her new album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” the governor told reporters at her Manhattan office that she would make time to listen. She confirmed last week that she had.

“I love her,” Hochul said. Her favorite track on the album is “So Long, London.”

Swift’s publicist did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Gov. Kathy Hochul points at a
Gov. Hochul has said she loves Taylor Swift. (Office of the Governor)

It is not uncommon for politicians to make a show of their admiration for musicians who they think speak to their political identity or to their supporters — or, simply, make music they like.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo maintained a public friendship with Billy Joel, the piano-pounding bard of Long Island, a politically purple region where Cuomo showed unique strength for a Democrat. Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg referenced Jay-Z cuts.

In presidential politics, Barack Obama embraced musicians like Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen, two artists whose music spoke deeply to parts of his base. Frank Sinatra supercharged the candidacy of President John F. Kennedy.

In Hochul’s case, the 65-year-old centrist Democrat seems to have made a calculation that Swift can help connect her with younger voters who have seemed skeptical, said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant.

U.S. President Barack Obama and rocker Bruce Springsteen wave to a crowd of 18,000 people during a rally on the last day of campaigning in the general election November 5, 2012 in Madison, Wisconsin. Obama and his opponent, Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are stumping from one 'swing state' to the next in a last-minute rush to persuade undecided voters. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Barack Obama fostered a friendship with Bruce Springsteen. At one point, they made a podcast together.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In a Siena College survey conducted last month, 41% of New Yorkers ages 18 to 34 said they approved of Hochul’s job performance, making the age group the governor’s weakest.

“She understands the nature of gossip and entertainment in American politics, and talking about Taylor Swift gets younger people and others to pay attention,” Sheinkopf said. “Taylor Swift’s lyrics are the lyrics of that entire generation overall, and those are the people she needs.”

“She may also like the music. Why not?”

Chris Coffey, a Democratic strategist, said referencing Swift also allows the governor to make the byzantine New York State government seem more accessible.

“It’s speaking a language that people understand,” he said. “You can show that you can do big things, lead the State of New York and have some fun while you do it.”

Hochul, the first woman elected governor of New York, may find some personal resonance in the experiences of Swift, who is well on her way to becoming the most popular female music artist in American history.

Swift, after all, has sung about “running as fast as I can, wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man.”

Hochul’s team has bristled at times over perceptions of the governor they viewed as gendered and unfair.

She has been seen, by critics and supporters alike, as a cautious political operator, one who is exacting with words and sometimes slow to jump into a political maelstrom.

FILE - In this July 10, 2019 file photograph, singer Taylor Swift performs at Amazon Music's Prime Day concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. Powered by big stadium tours from artists like Swift and Beyoncé, ticket sales are booming and it appears likely that live acts will continue to draw massive crowds after the pandemic closed down concert venues globally for close to two years. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
Taylor Swift is a billionaire with a sprawling fan base. President Biden appears to crave her endorsement. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

For example, while Mayor Adams was embarking upon a rapid-fire — and controversial — press tour defending the New York Police Department’s handling of protests at Columbia University, Hochul was touting wins for New Yorkers in the new state budget. She privately made a visit to Columbia to assess the situation and has also defended the NYPD.

But Hochul, who was slow to react to Lee Zeldin‘s crime-focused, stronger-than-expected Republican run for governor in 2022, has been aggressive in embracing a national role heading into the 2024 elections.

Though she is not on the ballot in November, her political brand is, to an extent. She is set to serve as one of President Biden’s top campaign surrogates, and she has taken a central role in  efforts to recover swing New York House districts that Democrats lost in 2022. In the midterms, Hochul’s weak showing against Zeldin hurt Democratic candidates down the ballot.

Linking herself to a highly popular musician might boost her efforts, Sheinkopf suggested.

“It’s about young people,” he said. “It’s about voters. It’s about message. It’s about making politics look less removed from the people.”

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