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Cuomo In 2020? First, There's 2018

Governor Andrew Cuomo
Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo
Governor Andrew Cuomo

Andrew Cuomo has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2020, but first, he may be facing some obstacles to win a third term as New York’s governor in 2018.

Governor Cuomo has taken actions in recent months that could be viewed as steps toward a presidential run. He’s hired key staff from President Obama’s administration, as well as new chief of staff Maria Comella who has also worked on republican presidential campaigns and who most recently was chief of staff for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

In speeches, Cuomo often presents a Democratic alternative to the President Donald Trump, and the GOP-led Congress, contrasting New York’s policies to those in Washington. He’s appeared at rallies and events with former Vice President Joe Biden and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The governor was fired up in a recent speech at a rally against the GOP plans to replace and repeal the Affordable Care Act, where he accused Republicans of being selfish.

“We believe in love and brotherhood and sisterhood, we believe in helping one another and standing up for one another,” Cuomo told a cheering crowd of health care union workers on July 17. “And we don’t just say it, we do it!”

Is Cuomo really considering a presidential campaign?

“I don’t think there’s any question he’s running,” said Fred LeBrun, a Times Union columnist who has been a journalist for half a century. He’s closely observed many New York governors.

“It makes sense,” LeBrun said. “Someone who is the leader of New York is automatically in a position to be considered for higher office.”

LeBrun says Andrew Cuomo “is the first serious candidate we’ve actually had for it, since his father."  

Cuomo’s father the late former Governor Mario Cuomo famously deliberated about entering the 1992 presidential race, but ultimately decided not to.

If you ask Andrew Cuomo point blank though, as reporters did recently, he says he’s focused on becoming governor again in 2018, and that anything beyond that is pure speculation.

“I’m running for reelection as governor of the state of New York,” Cuomo said on July 11. “And that’s what I’m focused on.”

The spokesman for the Quinnipiac University polls, Mickey Carroll, says he believes Cuomo.

“He’s got plenty of time to decide to run,” said Carroll. “Which I’m sure he hasn’t done yet.”

A recent Quinnipiac poll found that most New Yorkers don’t want Cuomo to run for president, though they do like the governor playing the role of Democratic foil to the national Republicans.

“But now is not the election,” Carrol said. “Now is three years away from the election.”

The governor may have some obstacles to overcome before that, including in a 2018 reelection race. The Quinnipiac poll on July 12 was the first of two voter surveys this month to find that Cuomo’s popularity and job approval rating are slipping among New Yorkers to near record lows. A Siena College poll on July 18, reported similar findings.

Part of the reason is frustrations with the downstate mass transit system, which seems to be in a meltdown this summer, with delays, derailments, and even fires.

Siena spokesman and political analyst Steve Greenberg says the dissatisfaction with Cuomo’s handling of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which the governor controls, strikes at the heart of Cuomo’s core base of support, New York City Democrats.

“He’s got to always protect his flank,” said Greenberg. “And right now his flank has some vulnerability.”  

Cuomo also faces potential embarrassment in the upcoming trials of several of his former associates, including his former top aide, on federal corruption charges including bribery and bid rigging. The governor has not been charged with any wrong doing, but has already said he may have to testify in the trials, which are due to start next January, right on time for the 2018 election cycle. 

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