It’s too soon to tell for sure but all indications are that the New York gubernatorial race will end up being the nation’s nastiest. That’s because, despite all expectations, the November election turned out to be between two heavyweights who are each committed to doing whatever it takes to win.
This is not what all the smart people said was supposed to happen. Andrew Cuomo, currently New York State attorney general, the Clinton-era U.S. Housing secretary, and a former political aide to his father, three-term N.Y. Gov. Mario Cuomo, was supposed to stroll easily into the governor’s mansion in Albany. Everyone expected that the younger Cuomo would trounce his likely GOP opponent, former Rep. Rick Lazio.
Enter Carl Paladino, the Buffalo-area real estate developer who, with the backing of the Tea Party movement and to the surprise of just about everyone, beat Lazio in the GOP primary. A multimillionaire in his own right, Paladino has the resources he needs to take the campaign right to Cuomo’s door, which is not what the dashing young Democrat expected.
Now, if you can believe the New York Times, Cuomo is whining about how hard Paladino is punching--which has turned an almost certain rout into a real race. A new Survey USA poll finds that while Cuomo leads, he is below 50 percent and the gap--just nine points--is closer than anyone had any reason to expect it would be, which exposes just how vulnerable Cuomo actually is.
It’s not just that Cuomo has the reputation for being mean, it’s that no one has taken a serious look at him--so certain were they that he was going to win that there was really no point in examining his vulnerabilities.
Maybe they should have looked. According to the Times, Elliot Spitzer--who also waltzed into the New York state governor’s mansion in a blow out--says that Cuomo is “the dirtiest, nastiest political player out there.” Given the way he eventually blew up, being called out by Spitzer is not exactly a badge of honor one can wear proudly.
For all his apparent toughness, Cuomo may have a glass jaw--simply because he has not been vetted carefully, just like someone else currently on the national scene. Paladino is close--and could get closer--if he continues to press the advantage he has as the new, fresh face in New York politics. He can get his opponent under the microscope--where Cuomo can ill afford to make any mistakes, not just big mistakes.
Consider the report Wednesday from the CBS affiliate in New York City that Cuomo may have been "caught lying about voting for Bloomberg" at the same time he was getting the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned independent mayor’s endorsement.
At the press conference Cuomo said he voted for Bloomberg. The campaign later admitted, however, that he didn’t--and that the only time he was registered to vote in New York City was 2005, when he endorsed Bloomberg’s Democratic opponent--Fernando Ferrer--for the city’s top job.
Imagine what Paladino--or anyone who didn’t like Cuomo--could do with that. Imagine a television spot with a dark, deep, sinister voice saying:
Andrew Cuomo told you he voted for Michael Bloomberg to be mayor of New York City. He didn’t. He lied. Now ask yourself this: If he’d lie to you about something as simple as who he voted for, what else would he lie about? Can you really trust him to be our next governor?
Bam! Zoom! Nastiest race in the nation.
- Check out our editorial cartoons on the 2010 campaigns.
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- See a slide show of 11 hot races in November.