The takeaway: Andrew Cuomo's political stature is diminished and his future as both governor and presidential candidate are limited.
Even more interestingly, de Blasio is depicted as Cuomo's political savior this election cycle, and likely to be more powerful than Cuomo himself within the Democratic Party in the near future.
How quickly fortunes change in politics, where just last spring de Blasio got rolled over charter schools and the pre-K taxes by Cuomo and was declared near-DOA in some press accounts.
But I'm less interested in de Blasio's resurgence in press accounts than I am with Cuomo's downward trajectory.
Last spring after Cuomo got his fourth on-time budget and rolled de Blasio over charters and taxes, he was riding high, was fully expected to win a big re-election victory, take that momentum into a second term as governor and perhaps build on it as a future presidential candidate.
Now the press frame for Cuomo, days before the Democratic Primary, is this:
This should be Andrew Cuomo’s springboard moment: He has tens of millions in the bank and every sign of routing his largely forgotten Republican challenger to win a second term. Throw that together with what’s still one of the best-known names in Democratic politics and a record of balanced budgets and wins on gay marriage and gun control, and election night should, for an ambitious big-state governor, be the first step toward a White House run.
Barring true shockers, Cuomo will win his Democratic primary Tuesday, as will his embattled running mate, former Buffalo-area Rep. Kathy Hochul. But the governor is finishing the nomination fight amid a sense in Albany that his political clout is diminished, progressives who believe he’ll always value his power over their principles, and a re-calibrated rivalry with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Cuomo’s even fallen behind in usefulness to Hillary Clinton — the New Yorker who’s likely to clear the field of most other Democrats, particularly those also from the Empire State — with the upstart challenge from Zephyr Teachout and her running mate Tim Wu exposing Cuomo as out-of-touch with the political passions of many liberal New Yorkers, and with a larger sense of progressivism that’s now defined much more by economic than social issues.
That’s the progressivism represented by de Blasio — a former Cuomo aide whom the governor started off the year all but trolling, and on whom he’s finished the primary season leaning, repeatedly, to backstop him.
Cuomo stormed into Albany four years ago on a promise of cleaning out corruption, fixing the always-disastrous state budget and restoring New York as the progressive leader of the country. He’s arriving on primary day with a federal investigation of supposed meddling into his anti-corruption Moreland Commission — which exacerbated political troubles simmering over a left-wing revolt over spending cuts and tax breaks he’d signed off on and a failure to press for stricter campaign finance rules. That only intensified as Cuomo attempted to get Teachout thrown off the ballot in a move that made many New York politicos privately shake their heads.
Even Cuomo’s 2011 push for legalizing gay marriage, at the time a controversial effort that was seen as a definitive progressive validator for an eventual White House run, has faded from people’s minds.
Crystallizing the progressive state of mind last week, as is often the case, were the local picks of the New York Times editorial board. The Times endorsed neither Cuomo nor Teachout, but they very strongly backed Wu — essentially as a way of punishing the governor without going so far as to support putting the state in the hands of a Fordham law professor whose own prior political experience was topped by working on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign.
“The Times is out to kill Cuomo,” said one supporter of the governor who asked not to be identified.
Regardless of what happens in Tuesday's primary or November's general election, Cuomo does not have the juice that he did in the first term to make everyone go along with what he wants or turn them into roadkill.
His "fear factor" to make others go along has been permanently diminished by the Moreland mess, by the machinations with the Working Families Party that make him seem weak and needy, by his reliance on de Blasio to save him both with WFP and help running mate Hochul in her battle with Wu, and by his refusal to engage in the campaign publicly.
Cuomo's been in hiding for a while now, first over the Moreland mess, when he hid from view to avoid having to address the scandal, now in the campaign, when he refuses to even mention his Democratic Primary opponent's name, let alone debate her in public.
If the emblem of the first Cuomo term was the iron fist, the emblem for the second will be a tattered glove:
“Governor Cuomo apparently doesn’t believe in the philosophy that it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game,” said Mark Green. “But by being so focused on his percentage rather than being a happy warrior campaigner — welcoming debates, interacting with the press and public — he’s probably helping himself next week but not next term. … Ideally he’ll be either a better governor by being more principled than hair-splitting, or he’ll have a harder time because he would have lost some of the fear factor that enables him to get his way.”
And of course the elephant in the room that never gets stated explicitly in the Politico article but hovers above all else in Cuomo's future is what US Attorney Preet Bharara, the federal prosecutor looking into alleged tampering of Cuomo's Moreland Commission by the governor and his staff, does in the case.
Does he indict one or more members of the Cuomo administration on corruption, conspiracy, obstruction and/or witness tampering charges?
Does he indict Cuomo himself?
Remember, Texas governor Rick Perry has just been indicted on a charge that seems slight compared to what Cuomo and his minions are alleged to have done with the Moreland Commission and former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell was just convicted on 11 counts of corruption and is going to jail.
Cuomo's legal jeopardy in Moreland will trump everything else that has happened so far and will happen in the second term.
About the best Cuomo can hope for is Bharara to issue a report taking him to task for meddling in Moreland and failing to clean up Albany politics as he had pledged to do.
Bharara has already publicly admonished Cuomo in the media - on WNYC, on Charlie Rose - so you know his Moreland investigation isn't just going to end quietly without comment from him, not after he took on Cuomo so prominently and publicly.
Political fortunes turn quickly, as we can see from how high Cuomo was riding in the aftermath of his budget victory last spring to now as he totters toward re-election, which means Sheriff Andy, ever the wily politician, will try and turn things around again.
But given what has happened these past five months, since he closed down Moreland and needed de Blasio to get him the Working Families Party nomination, we have witnesses the diminishing of the once impervious Andrew M. Cuomo and I just do not see how that "fear figure" can be put back together again to operate in the way he did in the first term.
As I've noted before, that's good for those of us who want to turn back some of his worst policies - the tax cap, the charter school budget giveaway, APPR.
Last night, I posted about Eva Moskowitz's recent p.r. blitz and wondered what might be behind the Eva Media Tour.
I suspect Andrew Cuomo's diminished stature and weakened political power is behind her recent media blitz - especially now that national political outlets like Politico are talking up her bitter enemy, Bill de Blasio, as the new power in New York State.