His re-election as Governor of New York may not be as farfetched as it seems
The return of Andrew Cuomo to electoral politics in New York State has horrified the Democratic Party and its adjuncts in the media, which are calling for him to accept his unpersoned status and go quietly away. But if it looks like they are scared, they should be, because Cuomo has a credible path to victory, should he decide to run for a fourth gubernatorial term.
It’s important to remember that Cuomo was forced out of office by a kind of palace coup that was orchestrated around a series of accusations of sexualised misbehaviour, none of which has wound up meriting criminal prosecution. Taken individually, these clumsy advances are awkward and embarrassing, but they don’t come anywhere near to the accusations of rape that have bedeviled other prominent politicians. Instead, the plot to remove Cuomo relied on a steady drip of insinuations that there was worse to come.
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Cuomo remained popular among New York Democratic voters, who were baffled as to why the hero of Covid, the man credited with soothing the nation with his “masterful,” Emmy-award winning daily pandemic briefings, was suddenly an exiled pariah. His hand-picked successor, Erie County’s Kathy Hochul — who was chosen to serve as Cuomo’s lieutenant precisely because she is such a void of charisma and political gravitas — hasn’t stumbled in her new role, but she hasn’t shined, either. There’s certainly no evidence that she has connected with the electorate.
Should Cuomo enter the Democratic primary race, he will face off against Hochul, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and Long Island congressman Tom Suozzi. Williams, a hard Left African American from Brooklyn, ran a competent, close race against Hochul in her lieutenant governor campaign in 2019. Suozzi will challenge her from the “common sense” centre. That’s a crowded field. Cuomo and Hochul each have eight-figure campaign war chests, and New York could be treated to a massive negative advertising war as the two former allies attempt to shred each other to pieces, while still fending off challenges from the margins.
Cuomo has a smarter path, however. If he sits out the Democratic primary and runs as an independent, he can let Hochul get bloodied as she tries to position herself as woke enough for the party’s ascendent extremist wing — which on its good days wants to close all prisons and on its bad days wants reparations paid to the released prisoners — and sensible enough for the suburban and upstate voters who are aghast at crime and impunity.
Cuomo could announce that the Democratic Party — which tried to bury him in hugger-mugger — has deserted its principles and then mount a third-party campaign, unscathed by a primary battle. He would have at least $18 million on hand. Millions of New Yorkers absorbed and still believe the fawning, adulatory publicity that Cuomo received during the pandemic, and suspect (rightly) that he was done dirty by party insiders, possibly at the very top. Shameless Cuomo could easily insist that the disastrous criminal justice reform he signed into law was forced on him by radical legislators against whom he is now the state’s only shield.
Would either ploy work? It might. Recent polling indicates that Cuomo and Hochul are running about equal among Democratic voters in a hypothetical four-way matchup, each registering in the mid-30s. The erstwhile “Luv Guv” has released television commercials touting his legendary accomplishments and mourning all the “leadership” that New York has been deprived of and has begun a tour of black churches complaining that he’s a victim of cancel culture. For her part, Governor Hochul has now indicated willingness to lean on the legislature to roll back some of the more egregious permissive elements of criminal justice reform in ongoing budget negotiations.
It may sound like a long shot, but Cuomos — père et fils — have won the governorship six times in the last 40 years. New Yorkers, for good or ill, seem to like what Andrew Cuomo offers. We await what could be either an embarrassing belly flop from the high dive, or the greatest political comeback in recent political history.