Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s name has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2020, but first, he may be facing some obstacles to win a third term as governor in 2018.
Cuomo has taken actions in recent months that could be viewed as steps toward a presidential run. He’s hired key staff from President Barack Obama’s administration, as well as a new chief of staff, Maria Comella. Comella worked on Republican presidential campaigns and was a top aide for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
In speeches, Cuomo often presents a Democratic alternative to President Donald Trump and the GOP-led Congress, contrasting New York’s policies to those in Washington. He’s appeared at rallies and events with former Vice President Joe Biden and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
The governor was fired up in a recent speech at a rally against the GOP plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, where he accused Republicans of being selfish.
“We believe in love and brotherhood and sisterhood, we believe in helping one another and standing up for one another,” Cuomo told a cheering crowd of health care union workers on July 17. “And we don’t just say it, we do it!”
So is Cuomo really considering a presidential campaign?
“I don’t think there’s any question he’s running,” said Fred LeBrun, an Albany Times Union columnist who has been a journalist for half a century. He’s closely observed many New York governors.
“It makes sense,” LeBrun said. “Someone who is the leader of New York is automatically in a position to be considered for higher office.”
LeBrun said Cuomo “is the first serious candidate we’ve actually had for it since his father.”
Cuomo’s father, the late former Gov. Mario Cuomo, famously deliberated about entering the 1992 presidential race but ultimately decided not to.
If you ask Andrew Cuomo point-blank, though — as reporters did recently — he said he’s focused on becoming governor again in 2018, and anything beyond that is pure speculation.
“I’m running for re-election as governor of the state of New York,” Cuomo said on July 11. “And that’s what I’m focused on.”
The spokesman for the Quinnipiac University polls, Mickey Carroll, said he believes Cuomo.
“He’s got plenty of time to decide to run,” Carroll said. “Which I’m sure he hasn’t done yet.”
A recent Quinnipiac poll found that most New Yorkers don’t want Cuomo to run for president, though they do like the governor playing the role of Democratic foil to the national Republicans.
“But now is not the election,” Carrol said. “Now is three years away from the election.”
The governor may have some obstacles to overcome before that, particularly in his 2018 re-election race. The Quinnipiac poll on July 12 was the first of two voter surveys this month to find that Cuomo’s popularity and job approval ratings are slipping among New Yorkers, to near record lows. A Siena College poll on July 18 reported similar findings.
Part of the reason is frustrations with the downstate mass transit system, which seems to be in a meltdown this summer with delays, derailments and even fires.
Siena spokesman and political analyst Steve Greenberg said the dissatisfaction with Cuomo’s handling of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which the governor controls, strikes at the heart of Cuomo’s core base of support, New York City Democrats.
“He’s got to always protect his flank,” Greenberg said. “And right now, his flank has some vulnerability.”
Cuomo also faces potential embarrassment in the upcoming trials of several of his former associates, including his former top aide, on federal corruption charges including bribery and bid-rigging. The governor has not been charged with any wrongdoing, but already has said he may have to testify in the trials, which are due to start in January, right on time for the 2018 election cycle.