An increasingly nervous Gov. Cuomo is considering his options to prevent the “very real’’ possibility that disgraced former Gov. Eliot Spitzer will win the Sept. 10 Democratic primary for city comptroller — and turn into Cuomo’s worst political nightmare.
With polls continuing to show the once- hooker-happy Spitzer holding a lead over uninspiring Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Cuomo — so far neutral in the contest — is considering a last-minute endorsement of Stringer or other actions to turn the tide, Democratic insiders say.
The insiders said Cuomo has been closely following private polling data on the Spitzer-Stringer contest and will likely make up his mind about intervening no later than the Labor Day weekend.
“It’s tough to overstate how dangerous for Andrew a Spitzer victory will be, and his victory is a very real possibility,’’ said a longtime Democratic operative, who has known the governor for years.
“If Spitzer is city comptroller, he’ll be attacking Wall Street, which Cuomo needs for the jobs and revenues it produces for the state; he’ll be advocating an across-the-board left-wing agenda, which makes Cuomo nervous; and he’ll never acknowledge Cuomo as the leader of the Democratic Party, which could be worst of all if the governor runs for president,’’ the operative continued.
Actions Cuomo could take to help defeat Spitzer include an outright endorsement of Stringer, direct attacks on the former governor, and the mobilization of his wide network of political loyalists and campaign contributors to go all out for Stringer.
Of course, if Cuomo attempts to help Stringer and Spitzer wins anyway, the existing hostility between the two men could become even worse.
That possibility has a prominent Republican strategist predicting that a victorious Spitzer might even seek to challenge Cuomo in the Democratic primary next year in an effort to regain his old seat as governor.
“I think a Spitzer victory over Stringer will drive the governor nuts,’’ said John McLaughlin, a New York-based national GOP strategist and pollster who is working for Republican mayoral hopeful John Catsimatidis.
“I believe there’s no question that Spitzer is looking to become governor again.
“He’s looking for redemption — it’s the indirect message in his TV ads, that he wants to protect the ‘little guy.’ He’s running for higher office than comptroller.
“If Spitzer is comptroller and Cuomo looks weak at this time next year, it may well be that he’ll be more of a threat to Cuomo than any of our Republican candidates could be,’’ McLaughlin continued.
Cuomo endorsing Stringer, Spitzer winning anyway, then challenging a weakened Cuomo next year seems more like a GOP fantasy than a realistic possibility.
Still, I can see why Cuomo would be concerned about Spitzer.
If Spitzer is hiding any dirt the way Weiner was, you can bet Sheriff Andy will make sure that dirt makes it to light.
Sheriff Andy is not going to want to deal with Spitzer back on a public stage.