Andrew Cuomo is having a moment. He enjoys ubiquitous coverage. His press conferences attract viewership second only to the president’s. In media quarters, some whisper his name as a possible Democratic nominee should Joe Biden’s limited and lackluster candidacy finally falter.
Democrats are understandably nervous about their all-but-official nominee. Biden’s appearances are uneven at best. He mumbles, loses his train of thought, and frequently mispronounces or downright mis-names, people and things in common use. A recent Washington Post/ABC poll found that only 24 percent of Democratic voters are highly enthusiastic about supporting Biden — the lowest number in the poll’s two-decade history.
Furthermore, Cuomo has earned a fair share of praise. Like most American public officials, he was initially slow to act, but has been energetic and effective since. By all accounts, he has worked well with the federal government, including securing five emergency hospitals for New York City. During daily updates, which have managed to inform and reassure New Yorkers besieged by the disease, he is confident, reassuring, and gives instructions competently. Clearly, Cuomo is good in a pinch.
But that does not make him a presidential candidate, especially as a convention-chosen alternative to a fading Joe Biden.
Cuomo is loathed by the left, not because he has conspicuously upstaged Bill de Blasio, New York City’s hapless mayor, but thanks to Democratic in-fighting in Albany belied by these PR victories. During Cuomo’s first two terms he leaned opportunistically on the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of moderate Democrats in the State Senate who broke with their party to give the GOP majority-control of the upper chamber. Cuomo was happy to see the IDC check progressive initiatives in the state legislature, preventing him from having to take hard stands that might split Democrats, and thus helping him to secure reelection twice.
Yet the IDC radicalized the left wing of Cuomo’s own party, chickens that came home to roost in 2018 despite Cuomo helping disband the IDC. In that year’s primaries, six of eight IDC members lost to progressive challengers, shifting the state legislature hard to the left. The following February, his proposal to bring Amazon’s second headquarters to Queens was scuppered in large part by freshman congresswoman AOC.
Simultaneously, Cuomo has taken positions on abortion and guns that fit with generally liberal New York, but which put him well outside the mainstream of public opinion nationwide. After the legislature passed some of the most sweeping pro-abortion legislation in the country, Cuomo directed that One World Trade Center be lit up in lurid pink. He has also seldom met a gun-grabbing initiative he didn’t like. And while flirting with his own presidential candidacy in mid-2018, Cuomo artlessly attempted to embrace wokeness, declaring that ‘America was never that great’. These stances and statements would hardly play well in the states of the upper Midwest come November.
Finally, Cuomo does not enjoy Biden’s deep and abiding support among black voters, the key constituency in the Democratic primary so far, and the bloc Democrats most need to mobilize if they want to win in November. Biden unambiguously owes his nomination to black voters. To remove him and replace him with Cuomo would negate the power of black Democrats to select the party’s nominee at the ballot box — a dubious thing to do under any circumstances. Cuomo does not do poorly with the black vote, but he is not significantly above any number of the other national-level Democrats who actually ran for president.
Our New York-centric media loves to prop up politicians from the tristate area. Cory Booker, Michael Bloomberg and Hillary Clinton all enjoyed outsized support among the press during the last five years. And while Andrew Cuomo has done a fine job in this crisis, Democrats dumping Biden for him makes little sense politically. Also, I don’t want Bill de Blasio to be in charge again. Hasn’t he done enough harm already?