Saturday, September 13, 2014

Race of the Day- New York Governor

52 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

It remains inconceivable that Democrat Andrew Cuomo may lose his Governorship, right? The situation is still different from 1994 when his father, Mario Cuomo lost a fourth bid for reelection to a far less known Republican. Back then, that race was well on the radar by this time, and the Empire State has become much more overwhelmingly Democrat over the past generation, despite the troubled Gubernatorial reigns of Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson. Needless to say though, Andrew Cuomo's time in Albany has not been without problems. While he was once talked about as the leading potential Democrat Presidential candidate in 2016, not named Clinton or Biden, his political standing has taken a deep hit in the past couple of years, as serious problems with his party base, as well as burgeoning ethical and perhaps legal troubles are taking a toll. Yes, Cuomo is going to win this year, barring one of the biggest political upsets of all time, but his margin may wind up being far smaller than most expect.

Things looked easy for Cuomo in 2010, as he rolled to a big win over an inflammatory Republican nominee, in a race that might otherwise be best known for the introduction of the slogan, "The Rent is Too Damn High" into the American political lexicon, thanks to a minor party candidate. There were great expectations for Cuomo, who had long sought to vindicate his father and become Governor of New York. Formerly married to a Kennedy, the Governor has lived Food Network personality Sandra Lee, of the "semi-homemade" variety, and many wondered whether the couple would one day tie the knot in preparation for the Presidential run that Mario Cuomo never went for.

Perhaps with national ambitions in mind, Cuomo embarked on a course in office that was considered more centrist than many expected, especially on budget and tax issues. While the politics of New York State and many positions taken by Cuomo would be considered way to the left for many in the heartland and other parts of the country, liberal activists and labor unions started to become nonplussed with Cuomo's leadership. The 2013 election of New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio (who has his own problems now) certainly brought forward a figure that the left could embrace more than the Governor, and the two had a public difference of opinion over charter schools.

It was never really in doubt that Cuomo would win renomination from Democrats, but just this past week, his margin of victory over law school professor and liberal activist Zephyr Teachout had to open some eyes. Despite massive campaign spending and name recognition advantages, Cuomo was held to just 62 percent of the vote. That is definitely a sign of weakness with one's base considering the circumstances. While he remains a favorite for the fall, I definitely think that there will be a sizable protest for the Green Party candidate among those on the left who have turned on Cuomo. He should perhaps consider himself even more lucky that there will not be a more viable alternative on the left running on the ballot under New York's somewhat unique party fusion system. The Governor has retained the ballot line of the Independence and Working Family Parties, but not without some controversy from within them.

After the current Lt. Governor decided one term was enough, Cuomo found it necessary to pick a new running-mate, and while his choice did win on Tuesday, she had an even closer race against Teachout's preference. Kathy Hochul had won a surprise 2011 special Congressional election in a Republican district upstate. Her term in Congress was pretty short though as she was defeated in the regular 2012 election. Nonetheless, Cuomo believed that she offered gender, geographical, and political balance to his ticket, and while that may all be true, she hardly is going to fire up liberals on his behalf.

As for the Republicans, the national media were the biggest losers when billionaire businessman and television celebrity Donald Trump declined to run for Governor. He probably never really gave it two seconds of thought, but he of course likes any attention he is given. After the GOP has struggled so mightily in statewide elections in the past two cycles, taking on Cuomo had to seem a bit like an overwhelming task, where building name recognition for future runs might be a more realistic hope than actually winning.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Republican and Conservative Parties united behind a credible candidate without much hassle. That candidate even has "rino" in his name. Rob Astorino is a former television and radio executive and personality who serves as the Executive of suburban Westchester County, demonstrating an impressive ability to win votes in a Democrat leaning area outside New York City. If Republicans are ever to be successful in New York statewide again, they will definitely need to make major inroads in those areas. Many consider Astronio to be a rising star in the state party, but the then presumptive GOP nominee got into a bit of a tiff with the Governor of neighboring New Jersey, as Chris Christie, the Chair of the Republican Governors Association bluntly stated that neither the national group nor he personally would do anything to help Astorino in his uphill bid against Cuomo, as it was more important to focus on winnable races. Astorino called for Christie to step down from his RGA role and said that he was too close to Cuomo. In serious need of media attention, it is hard to argue that Astorino was not justified for going that route in response to Christie, even if the New Jersey Governor was being realistic about the circumstances.

Not many prominent Republicans were lining up to be the candidate for Lt. Governor but Astornio selected Christopher Moss, the African-American Sheriff of Republican leaning Chemung County in the Finger Lakes region. He is the first black Republican to ever be nominated statewide in New York and will be popular among conservative voters in the state who disagree with Cuomo's strong support of gun control.

The general election is now formally set, and polls show Cuomo is going to win by a sizable margin. Astorino will definitely have an opportunity to make things interesting though if he is able to get Cuomo to agree to debate him. The incumbent seems to come across as increasingly arrogant and smug in many encounters and the anti-incumbent mood that may exist, and both among the left and the right, in the state could further harm his standing. It would be to the benefit of Republicans is the Green nominee is also included in any debates.

The biggest elephant in the room though this year may involve the possibility that Cuomo might actually face legal charges down the road. An ongoing story involves how Cuomo created and then destroyed an independent commission designated to look into state government corruption, after their work apparently began to hit a little bit too close to home for the Governor. It is doubtful that anything is imminent, but the taint of corruption and investigation is now around the Cuomo Administration and could become a major focus in a second term.

While he is almost certainly going to win, Andrew Cuomo is facing a much stronger Republican opponent than four years ago, and a more difficult political environment after a tumultuous first term in office. The fact that so many liberals will either stay home or will vote for someone else in protest, prevent me from labeling this race as "Safe." The incumbent may see his political and legal situations improve or decline drastically in a new term, but he definitely is not planning any trips to Iowa or New Hampshire anytime soon.

Astornio campaign link:

Gubernatorial races predicted thus far: 11 D (1 Safe, 3 Likely, 4 Leans, 3 Tossup) , 13 R (3 Safe, 4 Likely, 6 Leans)
Overall totals predicted thus far: 18 D, 20 R


At 8:03 AM, Anonymous Conservative Democrat said...

Cuomo might consider going for the United States Senate in 2016.


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