Andrew Cuomo has a real dilemma. Team Andrew wanted to avoid a divisive primary that might destroy Democratic unity. With Paterson out of the way, the Cuomo people got what they wanted.
Cuomo the younger has been playing it safe. He has not opened his mouth on the issues of the day. Before Paterson dropped out, he challenged Cuomo to offer his ideas about how to get the state out of its massive fiscal mess. Andrew stayed shut and said only that he would continue to do his job as attorney general. That strategy seemed to work and his polling numbers stayed high, around 70 percent.
Unfortunately for him, something went wrong and Cuomo’s numbers have slipped dramatically. He is still above 50 percent in the polls and still handily beats potential opponents, but if you were a fly on the wall listening to an imaginary conversation between Papa and Junior Cuomo, you had better believe that they are concerned. One possible explanation is that Paterson asked Cuomo to investigate various allegations against him and instead of immediately recusing himself, Andrew agreed to take on the obligation. People didn’t like that, even though the always canny Paterson had asked him to do the job.
Andrew may also be
slipping because when Paterson challenged him about how he would handle the state’s fiscal problems, Cuomo looked too “cute” in avoiding the question. He said he couldn’t think about it until after he investigates Paterson and Pedro Espada. That’s like the time Mario said he couldn’t run for president until he got the budget negotiated in New York. Nobody believed him.
To make matters worse, after the latest round of poll numbers came out, Andrew seemed to panic and announced that he would finally recuse himself from the Paterson investigation. He appointed former Chief Judge Judith Kaye to do the investigation. Kaye, you might recall, was appointed to her job on the Court of Appeals by Papa Cuomo. Perception is everything and some African-American voters may be ticked off by the perception that Cuomo did Paterson in.
When considering Cuomo’s dilemma, it is important to remember that Mario Cuomo was beaten in 1994, another Republican year, by George Pataki, a classic “Who-He?” Since all signs point to a Republican tsunami this year, Andrew Cuomo could be in trouble, particularly if his numbers continue to go down. Since he has punted on the Paterson investigation, it may look as if he’s scared and that doesn’t help him. Not only that, there is a big public opinion poll going around that seems to have been put out by Andrew. If he is just trying to find out
what people want and then give it to them, he may forfeit the impression that he is a leader and not just another politician. He still needs to tell us how to get out of
As the old saying goes, “Don’t count your chickens until you actually win the election.”
Alan S. Chartock is president and CEO of WAMC/Northeast Public Radio and an executive publisher at The Legislative Gazette.
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