Commentary Magazine


Topic: Rob Astorino

Hey GOP, Nobody Likes Cuomo

For a governor with a huge lead in the polls and an even bigger fundraising advantage over both his primary and general election opponents, New York’s Andrew Cuomo isn’t terribly popular. An ethics scandal and years of feuds and slights directed at various constituencies have resulted in Cuomo spending what should have been a triumphant reelection season scrambling to fend off challenges and absorbing slights from likely supporters. But right now the real question is not so much about Cuomo’s efforts as it is the reluctance of Republicans to take advantage of his weakness.

Read More

For a governor with a huge lead in the polls and an even bigger fundraising advantage over both his primary and general election opponents, New York’s Andrew Cuomo isn’t terribly popular. An ethics scandal and years of feuds and slights directed at various constituencies have resulted in Cuomo spending what should have been a triumphant reelection season scrambling to fend off challenges and absorbing slights from likely supporters. But right now the real question is not so much about Cuomo’s efforts as it is the reluctance of Republicans to take advantage of his weakness.

Cuomo’s biggest problem revolves around the U.S. attorney’s investigation of the governor’s attempts to quash the efforts of the Moreland Commission to probe the pay-to-play culture of Albany when it got too close to some of his supporters. His outrageous decision to shut the commission down was compounded by his arrogant dismissals of critics. But now that the Justice Department is involved, the public relations hit isn’t anywhere near as important as the potential legal peril facing the governor if more evidence is found corroborating charges of obstruction of justice.

That led to the startling decision of the New York Times to refuse to endorse Cuomo in the Democratic primary against Zephyr Teachout, a virtually unknown challenger. But the National Organization of Women and the left-wing Nation magazine coming down in favor of Teachout and her relentless attacks on the governor are taking a toll on him. As the Times reported yesterday, critics are now emerging throughout the political spectrum to either bash the governor or to exact demands to win their loyalty. Key constituent groups like unions are angry at the governor because of his initial move to the center after being elected in 2010 and are not appeased by his shift back to the left since 2012. Though none of this is enough to make anyone think Teachout or Republican nominee Rob Astorino can beat Cuomo, the picture emerging from the campaign is that of a weakened incumbent who is favored mainly because of his massive expenditures on television commercials and the moribund state of the state’s Republican Party.

Cuomo is right to take the New York GOP lightly. It’s been in a state of virtual collapse since 2002 when George Pataki won the last of his three terms in Albany. It’s been that long since it fielded a competitive candidate for either the governorship or a U.S. Senate seat and it has shown few signs of being able to pull itself together even in a midterm election year in which Republicans around the country are prepared to make gains because of President Obama’s unpopularity. It is true that the president is still popular in New York and the national GOP brand is despised in the liberal state, but unlike in past eras when centrist figures emerged to take advantage of Democratic weakness, the Republican bench in New York is empty as the state drifts toward a one-party dominance that essentially takes it off the board for national consideration in any election.

But, as I first wrote two weeks ago, the national Republican Party and the Republican Governors Association is making a big mistake in snubbing GOP nominee Rob Astorino. Unlike many of his recent predecessors on the New York ballot, the Westchester County executive is a plausible alternative to Cuomo. And unlike those GOP standard-bearers who were offered up as sacrificial lambs when they ran against Eliot Spitzer in 2006 and Cuomo in 2010, Astorino is facing an opponent who is in retreat on many issues and deeply vulnerable on ethics charges.

It may be that most New Yorkers don’t care about the charges against Cuomo. That’s understandable considering that the broadcast media has largely buried the story. That’s especially true when compared to Chris Christie’s Bridgegate woes. But despite his strong poll numbers, he remains vulnerable. It should also be remembered that the thin-skinned Cuomo has a long history of blowing up when put under pressure. Were Astorino given anywhere near the resources at Cuomo’s disposal, he might not win but he could help begin the process of rebuilding his party in a state Republicans should try to make competitive and help strengthen its influence in the state legislature.

Right now the assumption is that Cuomo’s obvious weakness is irrelevant to the national political equation and that any GOP money spent there would be wasted. But fate—in the form of a legal problem that could overshadow a potential second term for Cuomo—has given Republicans a golden chance that may not be repeated again. A governor who is under as much pressure and disliked as much as Cuomo has proven to be shouldn’t be given a free pass to reelection.

Read Less

GOP Must Exploit Cuomo’s Woes

There was good news and bad new for New York Republicans in a new Quinnipiac poll. On the one hand, it showed that New Yorkers think corruption is a problem and that Governor Andrew Cuomo is part of that problem. On the other hand, he still has a huge lead in his reelection race. Should that lead the national GOP to go on ignoring the Republican who is trying to upset the incumbent?

Read More

There was good news and bad new for New York Republicans in a new Quinnipiac poll. On the one hand, it showed that New Yorkers think corruption is a problem and that Governor Andrew Cuomo is part of that problem. On the other hand, he still has a huge lead in his reelection race. Should that lead the national GOP to go on ignoring the Republican who is trying to upset the incumbent?

Apparently, the answer to that question is yes.

Most national GOP leaders believe the Empire State is a lost cause and it’s hard to blame them for thinking so. The state party is in a state of complete collapse and hasn’t run a credible candidate, let alone a winner, for governor or for the U.S. Senate since 2002 when George Pataki won the last of his three terms in Albany. The New York City suburbs that once were the backbone of the state GOP along with the upstate regions have gone from red to purple to deep blue in the last 20 years.

Republicans in New York are leaderless, broke, and have shown little fight in the last decade. Though they have, for once, put up a serious challenger to Cuomo in Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, his 56-28 deficit in the Quinnipiac poll leaves little hope of an upset despite the major ethical problems that have beset Cuomo recently. Indeed, Republican Governors Association chair Chris Christie made it clear to Astorino that while he wished him well, he wouldn’t get a penny of the RGA’s money in order to try a run at Cuomo even after the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York indicated that the governor was under suspicion of tampering with an ethics investigation of his donors, and perhaps even obstruction of justice.

Given the mess that is the New York GOP, Christie’s decision, which echoes that of many major GOP donors, seems wise. But it is actually a big mistake. While Astorino and the New York Republican Party both seem like lost causes, if the party is serious about winning presidential elections it needs to find a way to make the state at least marginally competitive. Looking forward to 2016, Republicans already know they can write off two of the nations biggest Electoral College prizes in California and New York. That starts them off with a huge deficit that means they must, as they had to in 2012, win most if not all of the battleground states.

Can that be changed?

New York looks like a one-party state now. But it wasn’t that long ago that Republicans were able to elect governors and senators there. Admittedly, New York’s demographic makeup and the overwhelmingly liberal electorate in the state with the communications capital of the nation makes it hard to imagine how any Republican will win it in the foreseeable future. But even those who accept how difficult that task will be need to understand you have to start somewhere. And Cuomo’s ethical problems are a perfect opportunity to begin the process of rebuilding.

Cynics about Astorino’s campaign need to also understand that the Quinnipiac numbers are in no small measure the result of the media’s ignoring Cuomo’s scandal. While the state’s press, like everyone else in the print and broadcast world, treated Christie’s Bridgegate woes as if it was Watergate and World War Three rolled into one, the far more serious charges that Cuomo may face didn’t get a fraction of the air time or space as the New Jersey scandal. If Astorino had the resources to start pounding Cuomo on his efforts to quash an ethics investigation and then cover it up, the governor’s margin might very well be far smaller. A serious investment in his campaign on the part of the national party might give him the ability to get Cuomo’s misbehavior back on the radar screen of voters or at least make them more aware of a scandal that was largely downplayed or ignored. Boosting Astorino, who is the kind of candidate who could stand up to the thin-skinned Cuomo, would also help Republicans running for the legislature and make it easier for the party to begin building for the future.

Ignoring Astorino and New York is a pennywise and pound-foolish decision. Cuomo’s wrongdoing is giving the GOP a chance to get back in the game. National Republicans are foolish to pass it up.

Read Less

Cuomo, Ethics, and a One-Party State

Anyone who wants to know what happens when the two-party system collapses in a state need only have read the New York Times’s astounding report published last week about the way Governor Andrew Cuomo sabotaged a state ethics commission investigation. In a competitive state, the story would have doomed Cuomo’s chances for reelection. But if the bringing to light of this corruption won’t stop Cuomo in November, it does give us a case study in how low the Empire State has sunk under unchallenged Democratic rule.

Read More

Anyone who wants to know what happens when the two-party system collapses in a state need only have read the New York Times’s astounding report published last week about the way Governor Andrew Cuomo sabotaged a state ethics commission investigation. In a competitive state, the story would have doomed Cuomo’s chances for reelection. But if the bringing to light of this corruption won’t stop Cuomo in November, it does give us a case study in how low the Empire State has sunk under unchallenged Democratic rule.

Cuomo broke several days of silence about the investigation to deny that his administration had ordered the Moreland Commission not to issue a subpoena to a media buying firm that had placed millions in ads for state Democrats including Cuomo. The governor’s top aide reached out to quash the subpoena and it swiftly complied with the demand. Instead of the independent inquiry into Albany’s pay-to-play culture the governor promised when he rolled it out last year, the commission turned out to be a mere show that Cuomo disbanded halfway through its intended 18-month tenure.

But the best the governor could do in defense of this indefensible record was to claim that since he created the commission, he shouldn’t be accused of interfering with it. This is the sort of lame excuse that would make even absolute monarchs blush. But Cuomo is unashamed. Not satisfied with pulling this sort of “L’Etat C’est Moi” routine out of the Louis XIV playbook, Cuomo channeled George Orwell when he told the Times today that the commission was a “phenomenal success” and completely independent.

It’s not clear that anyone, even his biggest supporters, believes Cuomo. But the only conclusion to be drawn from this shabby exercise in bald-faced lying is that with polls showing the governor holding a 33-point lead over Republican challenger and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, he thinks it doesn’t matter that even the Times—the bible for New York liberals—has labeled him a corrupt charlatan.

Perhaps he’s right. Though Astorino gives the GOP a credible alternative to Cuomo, it’s hard to envision the circumstances whereby a bankrupt state Republican Party can do much to put a dent in Cuomo’s reelection drive. New York is one of the bluest states in the union and though it had a three-term Republican governor as recently as only eight years ago in the person of George Pataki (who first gained office by ousting Cuomo’s father Mario in the 1994 Republican landslide), the state’s GOP is now in ruins. Republicans haven’t run a competitive race for governor or U.S. senator in New York since Pataki’s last victory in 2002 and there’s no sign that even an able politician like Astorino can change that.

There are a lot of reasons why New York’s GOP has lost its way and Pataki’s uninspiring reign in Albany is part of the answer, along with the demographic decline in the more conservative upstate regions and the shift of the suburbs from red to blue as has happened in many other places. But let’s leave aside the explanation for how New York became, for all intents and purposes, a one-party state with the exception of a strong GOP presence in the State Senate. It is the consequences of this situation that should concern liberals as well as the conservative minority in the state.

The problem is accentuated by the fact that in the past, an independent attorney general might have helped keep the governor and his gang honest. But the current New York AG Eric Schneiderman is a left-wing extremist more obsessed with hounding the state’s economic engine on Wall Street than in chasing white color criminals in Albany.

A government that cannot be held accountable is one that is indistinguishable from tyranny. Cuomo’s cavalier dismissal of the scathing Times report about his laughable foray into ethics should remind its readers of the kind of crackpot politics that New Yorkers tend to associate with less sophisticated constituencies in the deep south like Louisiana. But comparing New York to that ethically challenged state is an insult to the home of the Big Easy. Baton Rouge or any other historic cesspool of corruption in this country has nothing on Albany, and Cuomo’s empty show of reform only adds insult to injury for state voters. But if New Yorkers are not prepared to draw conclusions about Cuomo, then they shouldn’t be surprised to find themselves overtaxed and underserved by a government led by a man more interested in pandering to the far left on guns and abortion than in keeping New York competitive.

The memory of this story may haunt Cuomo should he ever be so foolish as to attempt a quixotic presidential candidacy. But in the meantime, he’s probably right not to worry about New Yorkers paying attention to his misdeeds. Yet New Yorkers would do well to ponder whether liberal ideology should be prioritized over good government. When you have a one-party state the latter is impossible.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.