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How Andrew Cuomo is sidestepping Cynthia Nixon's challenge

A few minutes into New York's sole Democratic primary debate for governor, incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- wh...

Posted: Aug 31, 2018 10:44 AM
Updated: Aug 31, 2018 10:44 AM

A few minutes into New York's sole Democratic primary debate for governor, incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- who is running for a third term -- fielded a question that has been on the minds of many: Will he be a candidate for president in 2020?

"You're not running for president?" asked the debate's moderator, Maurice DuBois.

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"No. I'm running for governor of New York," said Cuomo, who is fighting a challenge from actor Cynthia Nixon, best known as a co-star of the "Sex in the City" TV series.

Pressed for a direct promise to serve out a full term, Cuomo slammed the door shut on any further speculation about a presidential run.

"The only caveat is if God strikes me dead," he said. "Otherwise I will serve four years as governor of New York."

Assuming he wins re-election, Cuomo should be dropped from the short list of possible Democratic candidates for president in 2020.

But that doesn't mean the governor is ignoring national issues. On the contrary: Cuomo and Nixon may have been lobbing attacks at each other ("Can you stop interrupting?" and "Can you stop lying?) on stage at Hofstra University, but it's clear that Cuomo and other Democrats have discovered that the quickest, most effective way to draw applause these days is to attack President Trump early and often.

"Today, you have to fight Donald Trump, who is the main risk to the state of New York," Cuomo said. "He is trying to change the rights and values of New Yorkers and the first line of defense is New York and the governor leads that fight and you need to know how to do it."

Focusing on Trump helps Cuomo in two ways. By keeping the attention on national affairs, Cuomo shifts it away from the weaknesses in his record in New York. He has been struggling to find ways to grow the sluggish economy of upstate New York, and a corruption scandal recently saw the conviction of a close aide and a top development expert.

Every day spent exchanging insults with the President on Twitter is a day Cuomo doesn't have to answer questions about how he plans to fix the subways, clean up the contaminated water in an upstate village or rebuild the state's crumbling roads, bridges and pipes.

And by positioning himself as a principal antagonist of the President, Cuomo gets a second political benefit: He can claim to be a more effective defender of progressive causes than Nixon.

Noting that Trump has attacked him on Twitter regularly, Cuomo turned the conflict into a kind of boast. "I welcome it. Know me by my enemies," Cuomo said.

All of which left Nixon in a difficult position. Cuomo has more money, more experience and higher name recognition than his challenger, and under the best of circumstances, it would be difficult for Nixon to unseat an entrenched incumbent.

But Cynthia Nixon made an already tough task even harder Wednesday night by making her attacks broad and ideological rather than specific and pragmatic.

Nixon has never served in government in any capacity, and has not managed any large institutions in the public, private or charitable sectors. That contrasts sharply with Cuomo's decades of experience, which includes two terms as governor, four years as state Attorney General and a stint in the 1990s as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton.

Nixon did deliver a pretty good zinger that partly neutralized the advantage conferred by Cuomo's resume. "Experience doesn't mean that much if you're actually not good at governing," she said. (Zing!) But she needed to follow up on the line by unfurling —and repeating as often as possible — a list of shortcomings and failed programs that Cuomo has accumulated over the years.

Nixon has positions on the state's subways, schools, public housing and criminal justice system, for instance, that contrast with Cuomo's. She has direct political experience as a high-profile advocate for increases in educational funding, and brought much of that passion — but not nearly enough — to the debate.

"New York has the second most unequal education system, when it comes to funding, in the entire nation," Nixon said early on. But she didn't deploy the old debater's trick of circling back to the topic over and over.

She also could have—and should have—noted specific Cuomo economic initiatives that flopped, such as a push for casino gambling that hasn't delivered as promised and the building of an expensive film and television center that went largely unused and was later sold for a dollar.

With only two weeks to go until Primary Day, Nixon made the most of her one and only shot on the same stage as Cuomo. But the governor won a debate that should have been about his record by changing the subject and making a local New York race all about Donald Trump.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 34622

Reported Deaths: 1215
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds269748
DeSoto181818
Madison138236
Jones117349
Harrison104014
Rankin103515
Neshoba102274
Lauderdale94281
Forrest93943
Scott79215
Jackson72717
Washington64310
Copiah63115
Leake61320
Lee58621
Holmes57341
Oktibbeha56828
Wayne55416
Warren55320
Yazoo5436
Grenada5357
Lowndes52613
Leflore52256
Lincoln50935
Lamar5027
Pike47020
Sunflower4528
Lafayette4374
Monroe43635
Covington4195
Panola3996
Bolivar38018
Attala37524
Simpson3733
Newton35710
Adams34019
Pontotoc3266
Tate32313
Marion31312
Claiborne29310
Chickasaw29219
Winston28711
Pearl River27632
Noxubee2758
Marshall2693
Jasper2676
Clay25511
Union23811
Smith23412
Walthall2267
Coahoma2156
Clarke21425
Lawrence1992
Yalobusha1938
Kemper18014
Carroll17311
Tallahatchie1664
Humphreys15910
Montgomery1493
Calhoun1475
Tippah14411
Itawamba1418
Hancock13813
Webster12811
Tunica1193
Jefferson1173
Jefferson Davis1164
Prentiss1123
Greene10810
Amite1063
George1023
Wilkinson959
Tishomingo921
Quitman891
Alcorn852
Perry764
Choctaw754
Stone732
Franklin492
Benton420
Sharkey420
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6030162
Mobile4418137
Montgomery4339109
Tuscaloosa254448
Madison19078
Marshall186611
Shelby150924
Lee149437
Morgan12205
Baldwin111410
Walker105127
Elmore98919
Dallas9639
Franklin92216
Etowah88214
DeKalb8416
Chambers65727
Russell6570
Autauga65313
Butler64328
Tallapoosa61669
Unassigned58626
Limestone5741
Houston5526
Cullman5395
Lauderdale5376
Lowndes48022
St. Clair4692
Colbert4656
Pike4595
Escambia4528
Calhoun4365
Coffee4074
Covington39911
Jackson3742
Bullock37010
Barbour3672
Dale3621
Talladega3497
Hale33722
Marengo33011
Wilcox2968
Clarke2946
Winston2893
Chilton2872
Sumter28512
Blount2731
Pickens2556
Monroe2492
Marion24514
Randolph2449
Conecuh2277
Perry2091
Bibb2081
Macon2069
Choctaw20212
Greene1928
Henry1433
Crenshaw1273
Washington1277
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Cherokee1127
Geneva920
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