After New York’s historic gay marriage vote last week, the national political media has begun speculating about the presidential prospects for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Right now, in fact, Cuomo is drawing more national media attention and more Google searches than at any other point in his governorship. (You can see the data at Google Trends.)
So reporters and regular people are zeroing in on Cuomo. But put aside the historical significance of the gay marriage vote, and anyone who follows New York politics knows the prospect of Cuomo as a popular Democratic primary candidate in 2016 is a joke.
This boomlet is a drastic illustration of the gap between DC political reporters imagining what the Democratic base wants and what the Democratic base actually says that it wants. By contrast, on Tuesday, one of the most popular diaries submitted by a reader on a top liberal blog, DailyKos, bashed Cuomo’s conservative record:
But while the same-sex marriage achievement is a terrific one… Cuomo has otherwise governed New York like a red-state conservative (not just a New York Republican, but a Christie-like conservative) who has made the New York Post editorial page swoon: ending taxes for millionaires, while cutting services for the elderly, children, disabled, ignoring environmental hazards to protect the deep-pocketed gas drilling industry, and waging a war on labor.
Eric Alterman, a columnist for The Nation and the Daily Beast, notes that Cuomo’s budget will cost New York schools 2,600 teachers and another 1,000 city workers, “many of whom work in health care for the poor, at a time when the need for both could hardly be greater.” Those cuts were not inevitable austerity measures, Alterman emphasizes, since Cuomo “fought tooth and nail to ensure the death of New York’s millionaire tax, at exactly the moment when its proceeds might have been able to prevent exactly [these] kinds of cuts.”
Those measures don’t play well with the progressives, union members and government workers who form a substantial part of the Democratic primary electorate. That’s especially true after the high-profile showdowns with Republican governors in Wisconsin and New Jersey—and in a climate where Democrats’ main, recurring domestic beef with President Obama is insufficient economic populism.
In New York state, the Democratic establishment obviously wants their top dog to look good, and last week was a clear victory. But privately, even some local Democrats who have worked for Cuomo say his record provides little foundation for a presidential run.
“Cuomo has governed as a red-state conservative, cutting taxes for millionaires while decimating services for children and the elderly,” says one Democratic operative who has worked for Cuomo and other government officials, adding, “He placed the interests of big business over all else.” The operative, who is disillusioned with Cuomo’s governorship and requested anonymity to speak candidly about his old boss, says people should study the totality of Cuomo’s “extreme right-wing record, praised by the Tea Party and New York Post,” because there’s little chance that “progressive primary voters would rally behind that.”
For his part, Cuomo recently said the presidential speculation was “silly,” because it is premature. He’s half-right.
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