1994 was significant for the Republican Revolution, mostly as a referendum against President Bill Clinton and his health care plan, and was seen as a tough year for Democratic incumbents. Moynihan, however, was New York State's most popular politician at the time, and ran ahead of all other Democrats competing statewide.
Republican Castro was running for office for the first time and had trouble raising funds due to being seen as unlikely to win; at times during the race she trailed by up to 30 percentage points. She portrayed herself as a fiscally conservative, socially moderate Republican in the mold of Governor of New Jersey Christie Todd Whitman, and attempted to portray Moynihan as excessively liberal and prone to government spending. But Moynihan repeated his past strong performance among upstate voters, in addition to the usual Democratic strongholds in New York City.