ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Andrew Cuomo just smiles at the question: Will you run for president?
Gov.-elect Cuomo, still nearly two months before he takes office, can’t really avoid the plot line.
His father, Mario, the Democratic icon who wowed his party with a speech at its convention in 1984, made a second career out of not running for president. Gov. Mario Cuomo would tease reporters about the idea to keep it alive, then scold them for bringing it up. In the end, he was hurt by what appeared to be indecision and was hung with the infuriating and unflattering label “Hamlet on the Hudson.”
In a term or, more likely, two, Andrew Cuomo could be in the same spot as his father. He has much of the essential foundation already.
He earned credibility with Washington insiders as President Bill Clinton’s housing secretary. He’s made national headlines over the past four years as a white knight attorney general who took on Wall Street while it was disdained by the public. On Tuesday, he countered the wave that swept Republicans into office nationwide.
But akin to the famous “New Yorker” cover that depicted nondescript, open nothingness west of the Hudson River, New Yorkers tend to see their own as giants.
Within just 100 miles are two at least equally likely contenders: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican; and Sen.-elect Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He’s the nationally known Democratic attorney general who served in that role for two decades, far longer than Cuomo’s single term.
“There are others to be perceived as just as big,” said political scientist Doug Muzzio, a professor at Baruch College. Many of them face a fiscal crisis, many prosecuted bad guys, many staved off or appealed to this year’s angry wave of voters.
“There are so many variables involved,” Muzzio said. “We’re talking about 2016? Excuse me, the world could end by then.”
For those who will inevitably push the idea of a presidential run early, Muzzio advises: “Get a life.”
Asked for comment, spokesman Josh Vlasto pointed to comments made by Cuomo where he called such speculation “delusional.”
“Virtually every elected governor of New York tends to be included in the list of potential presidential candidates,” said Steven Greenberg of the Siena College poll. Cuomo’s experience, his ability to raise campaign cash and political skills matched with success as governor will put him in that class, Greenberg said.
New York governors who became president include Martin Van Buren, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt and, most recently, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 78 years ago. Although New York governor’s often are in the mix — Nelson Rockefeller became vice president under President Gerald Ford — excited talk about governors Thomas Dewey, Cuomo and George Pataki failed to take them to the White House.
But the stage is set and the parts are well-played by Cuomo and his supporting cast:
His devoted daughters are photogenic and articulate and act as Cuomo’s straight man when his potential for pomposity needs a jab from a self-deprecating joke, or his hard edge needs softening. He has a famous father who, in older age, is seen by New Yorkers as the towering statesman the nation viewed him as. At 52 but looking 32, with Democratic President Obama faltering, timing may be on Andrew Cuomo’s side, too.
Working against a Cuomo run are a handful of things: He’s divorced and lives with his companion of five years, television personality Sandra Lee; there’s a perception that any Democratic politician from the Northeast is too liberal to appeal to the whole country; he has relatively little experience in elected office, just four years; and he was once seen as combative and highly ambitious, traits he and his staff pass off as youthful hardheadedness that has softened with maturity.
The chatter won’t likely get any fuel from Cuomo directly. In a 2006 televised debate when he was running for attorney general, he was asked if he had plans to run for governor and if attorney general was just a step in his comeback after a 2002 failed run for governor. He said no, to a shower of disbelieving guffaws.
That same year, an Albany reporter familiar with covering Mario Cuomo repeatedly called Andrew “governor.”
Cuomo never corrected the reporter.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)