In politics, turnabout is fair play

cuomo and de blasio 3There seems to be a fierce contest of wills between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo and there is a lot of speculation about both men looking for surrogates to defeat one another in their coming reelection campaigns.

Neither man is particularly popular. De Blasio’s reputation among a lot of New York City voters is just awful, but so far, it doesn’t seem as though Andrew Cuomo has found a suitable candidate to run against him. De Blasio is, however, very popular among the voters who comprise New York City’s substantial minority population, so it is no surprise that we hear Cuomo is looking for a representative of that demographic to run against the mayor. That’s not going to be easy to do because the folks who think de Blasio is their guy may look with electoral disfavor on any perceived traitor from their ranks who aids in bringing him down.

Of course, turnabout is fair play. Many people think that the mayor who took all of Cuomo’s insults for so long may have a trick or two up his sleeve. He knows that he represents the left flank of the party and that Cuomo is suspect by the left. Cuomo is obviously aware of his risks from the left and has been furiously trying to repair the damage he did when he came on strong as a sort of Blue Dog Clintonian Democrat during his first administration. He was successful, backed by many of the New York fat-cat rich guys who had fish to fry when it came to have their way with the political superstructure. But when Cuomo ran the second time, he was almost beaten in a primary by a leftist political unknown. Zephyr Teachout, who had no money and little staff on the ground, damn near beat Cuomo especially in nearly every upstate county.

Cuomo was saved by two factors. The first, of course, is the Cuomo name recognition in New York and its nearby burbs. Papa Cuomo will forever be legend among progressive Democrats and that helps the man they call the “Dark Prince” immensely. Nonetheless, even Mario Cuomo ran out of gas as he tried to run for a fourth term. Andrew certainly knows that this is going to be a close election. His move to the left has not fooled a lot of people, like all those New York school teachers who will never forgive him for threatening their tenure. Their leaders may have made peace with the governor but the individual teachers I talk to will never forget what they consider the guy’s perfidy.

Secondly, De Blasio saved Cuomo’s political behind the last time out by coming out and passionately urging the Working Families Party to nominate Cuomo. Heaven only knows why he did that and whether he has asked for forgiveness from his higher powers for putting his most serious political enemy, the guy who delights in tormenting him, in place.

I have often said that you can’t beat someone with no one. That turns out to have been wrong since a nobody named George Pataki defeated Cuomo the Elder and went on to serve four terms. So when you look for a mayoral candidate to defeat Cuomo, you get people named Scott Stringer or some obscure Borough President.

Obviously, the big player in much of this is the fighting U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who has been investigating the pay-to-play tactics of both Cuomo and de Blasio. If Bharara can make a serious case about either man, it could mean their political obituaries.

There is still the Bloomberg model of a rich, articulate, middle of the road player who might emerge and capture the people’s fancy. So far, the rich guys who have shown interest are hardly the type to capture the hearts and minds of voters. But, it is getting interesting.