CONCORD, N.H. (CBSNewYork/AP) — George Pataki, the 9/11-era New York governor who achieved electoral success as a Republican in a heavily Democratic state, announced his candidacy for the presidential nomination Thursday, offering himself as a unifying figure in a divided nation.
Just as he was overshadowed after the 2001 terrorist attacks by Mayor Rudy Giuliani in New York City and President George W. Bush, Pataki opened his 2016 campaign in the shadow of better known rivals. Out of office since 2006, he’s a clear underdog in a bustling pack of favorites and longshots.
Pataki told about 150 supporters that an increasingly intrusive government is jeopardizing the freedoms past generations fought for, and he will fight to get government out of people’s way.
“It is to preserve and protect those freedoms that I announce I’m a candidate for president of the United States,” Pataki said.
With so many Republicans seeking to be president, Pataki must think he has as good a shot as anyone, but his decision to run has some political experts scratching their heads, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Thursday.
“He’s anti-charismatic. When he comes into contact with charisma, he destroys it. More importantly, he’s on the wrong side of the culture wall with the GOP base. He’s much too liberal. On policy alone he can’t win it and he’s unknown,” said Baruch College pundit Doug Muzzio.
Pataki’s entry into the race comes as a new Quinnipiac University poll shows that Republican voters can’t make up their mind about who to back in the crowded field.
Leading the pack is “undecided” with 20 percent, followed by five candidates at around 10 percent.
The field includes former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Kramer reported.
Pataki, a low-key Republican moderate, flirted with presidential runs in 2008 and 2012 but stopped short. Now he hopes to reignite the bipartisan unity born in the trauma of 2001.
That’s a tall order in a nation — and a party — fraught with division. But Pataki invokes his record working with Republicans and Democrats alike as a three-term governor who in 1994 defeated Mario Cuomo, the liberal stalwart and celebrated orator many Democrats wanted to see run for president.
Pataki, 69, declared his candidacy in a YouTube video, set in a New York skyscraper, and his rhetoric seemed to echo sentiments of the 9/11 aftermath.
“We are all in this together,” he said. “And let us all understand that what unites us is so much more important than what might seem superficially to divide us.”
Without Bush’s bullhorn or Giuliani’s in-your-face crisis management and eloquence, Pataki worked solidly with them to steady a devastated city. He quickly mobilized New York Army and Air National Guard troops. By the evening of Sept. 11, 750 troops had already reported to armories in New York City to support the massive security and rescue efforts.
As governor, he said, “My vision was not a partisan vision, it was a vision about people, about what we could accomplish together.”
He’s been a frequent visitor to New Hampshire and set his announcement event in Exeter because it was the state capital during the Revolutionary War and claims to be the birthplace of the Republican Party.
Despite his centrist leanings, he’s spent recent months promoting his conservative credentials, as those running for the Republican nomination invariably do.
He’s campaigned against President Barack Obama’s health care law, criticized Obama’s executive order to offer protections against deportation to millions of immigrants living in the country illegally, and said the nation can’t afford another Democratic president. He also has called for less government spending and limiting government power.
“Washington has grown too big, too powerful, too expensive, too intrusive,” Pataki says in the video. “We the people, not Washington, are equipped to lead this country.”
Among his GOP rivals: sitting senators, several current and former governors, business leaders and a renowned neurosurgeon.
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