May 29, 2020

Cuomo factor

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 2 April 2020WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUNDToday’s Events in Historical PerspectiveAmerica’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932The Cuomo factorBy Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift          WASHINGTON – People longing for effective leadership in these perilous times are watching New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily coronavirus briefings, and they like what they see. Some of them think Cuomo should be the Democrat to take on President Trump in November.          Cuomo says he’s not thinking about politics now. He’s trying to save lives and not running for president. Besides, he says, former Vice President Joe Biden is his friend (although the old saying is, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”). Further, there’s no obvious path for Cuomo to challenge him.          Could a write-in campaign for Cuomo change anything? It’s unlikely unless Cuomo were to signal his approval, and there is no indication he is encouraging a draft. He has his hands full dealing with the health crisis rapidly and viciously unfolding in the nation’s hardest-hit state.          But this is not the last we’ll hear from Cuomo. The Democratic Convention has just been moved from July to August 17, and whether it is in-person or virtual, Cuomo will have a primetime speaking role.          He has emerged as a star during this crisis, and the Biden campaign can showcase him as the aggressive straight-talking surrogate to confront President Trump. It would be an ideal role because he commands attention due to his performance as a governor on the coronavirus frontlines and because it would allow Biden to maintain his “Everybody loves Joe” demeanor.         Republicans are excited about reelecting Trump, and what they perceive as his positive handling of the pandemic only makes them more determined to give him another four years. As with all first-term presidents, the election will be a referendum on his leadership.          So, Biden must make the case – emphatically through Cuomo – that Trump failed the country by downplaying the threat of the virus for too long, and then taking half measures to constrain the spread of the disease rather than using the full power of the federal government to mobilize the fight against this dreaded plague.          For Democrats, this is a perfect duo and not a time to dream about a hero who comes in at the last minute and somehow magically closes what pollsters call “the enthusiasm gap.” This is the time to coalesce around Biden, and that can only happen if Sanders gets out of the race.          Wisconsin is scheduled to hold its primary on Tuesday, one of the few remaining contests that haven’t moved to June because a Democratic governor has been unable to convince a reluctant Republican legislature to change the date. Meanwhile, Biden has a big lead over Bernie Sanders in the state, and that’s unlikely to change           Sanders has been urging Wisconsin to delay its primary, hoping to avoid another likely loss. Even though he is well behind Biden in delegates, Sanders sees a narrow path to the nomination remaining as the country’s medical system collapses under the weight of needed care.          After what we’ve experienced, one should never say never, but Biden is the likely nominee, and by staying in the race, Sanders is perpetuating the same division within the Democratic Party that he contributed to Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016.          There is no sugarcoating the problems Biden faces, and Sanders, too, as they struggle to get out their message through virtual interviews and town halls now drawing little interest from the public or the media.          However, people are watching Cuomo, and they’re watching Trump. They are in the arena. They are where the action is, while Biden is relegated to the basement of his Delaware home and further constrained by the continued presence of Sanders in the race.          And April will be the cruelest month with the coronavirus expected to peak and take its greatest toll to date and throughout the month only Cuomo and Trump have widely watched platforms. But Biden needs to find his voice as well as a platform or the wishful thinking about Cuomo could become too damaging to his campaign and too pervasive to ignore.          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn          © 2020 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.          END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND 

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