Though Cuomo is almost certain to win, the outcome of this struggle on the left isn’t just academic, and it affects him, too.
For one thing, it will have an impact on Cuomo’s share of the vote, which, despite his protestations that he just wants to win, will determine whether the juggernaut image he's shaped remains intact. And the governor well knows that in elections, there are wins and then there are wins.
While he’s cleaning Astorino’s clock, polls also show his share of the vote often sitting under 60 percent.
Here’s what that looks like when you put it into recent historical context for a Democrat in New York State. The governor’s father Mario Cuomo received 64.6 percent of the vote in his first reelection campaign. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand showed the potential for a statewide Democrat to dominate in recent (presidential) years, with the former nabbing 71.2 percent of the vote in his first re-election, and the latter getting 72.2.
Chris Christie got 60.3 percent last year in a neighboring blue state as a Republican, and Cuomo himself got 62.6 percent his first time around in 2010.
He’ll want to outperform those numbers. And for that matter he’ll want to outperform his fellow statewide Democratic candidates, Eric Schneiderman and Tom DiNapoli. That will depend in part on whether disaffected liberals vote for him—or vote at all.
If Cuomo gets 56% of the vote, as the last Marist poll showed he might, that's a clear win and he'll claim it's a mandate and look to push through his odious policies claiming the people of this state voted for them.
But taking 56% of the vote is also a sign of weakness, given that his dad received 65% of the vote the first time he ran for re-election and Schumer and Gillibrand received 71% and 72% in their first re-election bids respectively.
Hell, even Christie got 60% in a blue state.
If Cuomo can't break 60% today, let alone break his 63% mark from four years ago, it demonstrates just how weak he is politically these days, with many on the left despising him and the right despising him too.
Cuomo will put a smiley face on his win tonight, no matter the totals, and claim mandate.
But if he comes in with totals close to what he's been polling at, it's a show of weakness for Cuomo, not a show of strength.