‘President Cuomo’ is new daydream for those fretting over Biden

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WASHINGTON — While Americans are stuck at home, the Democrat dominating the airwaves to counter President Donald Trump’s messaging about the coronavirus is not the one seeking to replace him in the Oval Office — it’s New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

And that’s causing some daydreaming for political junkies with time on their hands.

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is also holding daily briefings that are scoring high marks for empathy, sound advice about physical and mental health, and for offering a solid plan about what he would do if he were not a private citizen waiting out the virus at his home in Delaware.

Amid a global pandemic, Cuomo’s near-daily briefings about New York’s response to COVID-19 have become the Democratic counterpoint to Trump’s appearances that most Americans see — and unlike Biden, he’s able to actually put his plans into action.

It’s created a moment in the spotlight for a politician who ruled out running for president in November 2018, and who’s endorsed Biden.

Cuomo was U.S. Housing secretary in the Clinton administration and is the oldest son of beloved Democratic New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who dallied with running for president in the 1980s and 1990s. As if that wasn’t enough of a Democratic political dynasty, Cuomo, 62, was once married to a Kennedy.

The hashtag #PresidentCuomo trended on Twitter last week. Musings about Cuomo as a wild-card nominee have come from everywhere on the left, including New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who called him “president of the coronavirus response,” and a writer at the feminist website Jezebel, Rebecca Fishbein, who headlined her piece, “Help, I think I’m in love with Andrew Cuomo???” She wrote another piece after Cuomo called to thank her.

Cuomo has also softened his public image by ribbing his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, during recent interviews.

In what seemed like a metaphor for the times, cable news networks last week even skipped a speech by Biden and aired one of Cuomo’s briefings instead. Biden still ended up with a few million views of his briefing on his website over several days.

Jim Larocca, a longtime political player in New York who worked with the younger Cuomo when Mario Cuomo was governor, recently wrote a column in the Long Island newspaper Newsday calling for Democrats to swap him for Biden.

Cuomo has provided a “stark contrast” to Trump with his response to the coronavirus pandemic — something Biden hasn’t yet accomplished, Larocca said.

“The governor is displaying a real measure of passion about the subject, compassion for the victims, and humanity about the impacts,” he said. “The contrast with the president’s behavior could not be more pronounced.”

But experts on the Democratic nominating process say that a Cuomo nomination is little more than a daydream.

Biden was on track to win a majority of delegates, allowing him to easily win in the first round of voting at the Democratic national convention, when the coronavirus stopped the nominating process in its tracks. That left him and Bernie Sanders — who is still actively running for the job — with little to do but rail against the president and offer alternative plans via live-stream to combat the virus.

The deadline has passed for more candidates to join the race, so the only way Cuomo could become the nominee is if voting went into a second round, when delegates are free to choose. But there are still hundreds of delegates pledged to Sanders, and a few pledged to former candidates such as Pete Buttigieg or Elizabeth Warren. They would all have to switch as well.

Plus there’s the fact that Cuomo, at least for now, supports Biden’s nomination.

Richard Pildes, an election law expert at the New York University School of Law, said that a Cuomo nomination is a “far-fetched scenario” that may seem more plausible to some people at the moment because the Democratic primaries are on hold, with contests postponed to May or June due to the pandemic.

“Given the volatility of the world right now, you can imagine a lot of things happening between now and June 2,” he said.

But he said a brokered convention, which last occurred in 1952, is extremely unlikely unless the presumptive nominee were unable to accept the nomination due to serious illness or death.

Perry Woods, a longtime Democratic strategist in North Carolina, said he’s been impressed with Cuomo’s performances on TV, but that Biden’s brand of empathy, as shown in recent interviews where he talks about the grief victims’ families will face, is just as strong of a contrast with Trump.

“People have a sense of who Joe Biden is, and at his core he is empathetic and inherently a good human being,” he said.

Woods said the Cuomo boomlet is more a function of “buyers remorse” — the perennial concern among Democratic primary voters that they may not have chosen the strongest candidate. That may be exacerbated now as Trump experiences what pollsters call the “rally around the leader” effect of a national crisis, and the higher approval numbers that go with that.

He said it’s extremely unlikely that Democrats would end up with Cuomo as the nominee.

“It’s going to be Joe Biden, short of something physically happening to Joe Biden,” he said.


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