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The Coronation of Andrew Cuomo

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"News endorses Cuomo," said a headline on the front page of Sunday's Daily News.

Doesn't this seem a bit early? The election isn't until November, and the Republicans don't even pick a gubernatorial candidate until the Sept. 14 primary.

Exactly the point, said the News. Its editorial page wanted to drive home the message that both Republican candidates, Rick Lazio and Carl Paladino, are totally unacceptable. Lazio because of his disgusting "Ground Zero Mosque" ads and Paladino because ... because Carl Paladino is a foul-mouthed jerk. None of us are crazy about Sheldon Silver, the powerful leader of the state Assembly. But as the News pointed out, we don't want a governor who calls a legislator who's an Orthodox Jew the anti-Christ. And let's not even get into the racist e-mails.

So, they have a point. There's no other option. And you have to give the News credit. They found a way to make an Andrew Cuomo endorsement surprising.

The idea of simply declaring the election over before it starts is very appealing. But Cuomo does need an opponent to smoke him out on important issues. (I'm presuming Lazio will win the primary. If Paladino is the nominee, the News is right. We're done. Forget I ever brought this up.)

Andrew Cuomo is in such a strong position this year he could run a campaign promising change that really identifies what those changes actually are. He can define the spending that has to be cut, the taxes that have to be raised or changed, the choices that have to be made. It's one thing to say that there are too many levels of government in New York. It's another to actually go to the upstate towns and say: "Look, you have three different law enforcement agencies protecting the same streets. You need to get rid of two."

If Cuomo did that, he'd go into office with an incredibly strong mandate. But of course he'd rather not. He'd rather stay holed up in the Attorney General's office until the leaves fall, while we get endless TV ads, showing children, families, senior citizens, puppies - all of them looking happy, because the very thought of Andrew Cuomo lifts their spirits.

I don't know if Lazio has the strength to force Cuomo to really tell the people the hard facts rather than throwing them in fat, and still rather vague, position books. But assuring him in August that he's got it made won't help matters.

Nevertheless, the News deserves points for giving us something to talk about that doesn't involve depressing economic indicators.