Andrew has the best of both worlds … for now
So pretend that you are Andrew Cuomo. If you were in his shoes, what would you do? How would you behave? Currently he is hands-on favorite to be the next governor of New York, following in the footsteps of Papa Mario. Right now he is demonstrating he has all the skills he needs to get himself elected. You won’t find a better politician to play this game. Andrew is great at politics but is he as good at policy making?
His problem is what he’ll do once he gets elected. He has positioned himself in a right of center position. He is backed by none other than the man who did more to defeat his father than anyone else, Rupert Murdoch. He says that he is against bloated and corrupt government. He says that he is against too much government. He says that he wants to tame the Legislature and is asking people to sign a petition demanding that the legislators sign onto his reformist program. He says that he won’t support them if they don’t support him and he risks making them fierce enemies if they win without his help.
He is traveling the state speaking to the party faithful and anyone else who will listen. Since his opposition is fractured (Billionaire Carl Paladino is proving himself a right wing whack job and Rick Lazio is a nice man who could give Howdy Doody a run for his money) the election is not the problem. The problem is how he’ll buy a ticket to the White House once he wins. If he can’t make things better in New York, he will end up just like Mario, seen by the people as an ineffective blowhard who talks too much.
Right now, Andrew has the best of all worlds. The Democratic faithful (center left) remember Mario with nostalgia as being better than David Paterson and a man with a passion for words and great stories. Mario could do little to nothing with the Legislature despite some very public fights and battles over the budget. Mario, of course, played to his base. He loved the unions and for the most part they loved him. He was opposed to the death penalty and was widely admired for his stance, even by those who wanted to fry those who deserved the ultimate penalty. Andrew, with a position more to the right than Mario, is loved by conservatives like Rupert, a guy who has never really met a social program that benefits the have-nots that he seems to like.
It is without doubt true that New York’s middle class folks have had enough with taxes and too much government, at least for now. There is so little push back with the various cuts in services, including cuts in the education and hospital budgets, that I am astonished and I am a confirmed cynic. We don’t really know what will happen in the coming election cycle. You see signs all over the place that read, “Vote them all out.” Ironically, if that really happens, Andrew will have a quiver full of arrows. The existing leadership in the Assembly and Senate will surely be replaced with pro-Andrew types. But I think that is unlikely to happen. I suspect people will continue to hate the Legislature and love their own guys.
In the meantime, Andrew’s war chest is full to overflowing. He has taken money from people all across the political spectrum. The late Speaker of the California Legislature, Jesse (Big Daddy) Unruh once issued said, “If you can’t drink a lobbyist’s whiskey, take his money, sleep with his women and still vote against him in the morning, you don’t belong in politics.” That’s pretty much what Andrew told me although he said it better, suggesting that it was all about personal integrity. He made it plain that despite taking money from people who supported him as Attorney General, he had still gone on to prosecute them.
Let’s put it this way: Andrew is not Mario but they have lots in common. They still speak to each other and Mario has put aside his announced predilections in favor of the son who he loves to death. Just look at Murdoch who killed Mario but is helping his son. Things change but let’s see what happens when Andrew crosses Rupert. He’ll have to, you know. Just remember what Big Daddy said about taking their money.
Originally published by the Legislative Gazette, 7/20/10