On Monday night, CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked his older brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the question that lots and lots of people have been talking about over the past month: Would he run for president?
C. CUOMO: Let me ask you something. With all of this adulation that you’re getting for doing your job, are you thinking about running for President? Tell the audience.
A. CUOMO: No. No.
C. CUOMO: No, you won’t answer?
A. CUOMO: No. I answered. The answer is “No.” I answered the question.
C. CUOMO: No, you’re not thinking about it?
A. CUOMO: Sometimes, it’s one word. I said “No.” No.
C. CUOMO: Have you thought about it?
A. CUOMO: No.
C. CUOMO: Are you open to thinking about it?
A. CUOMO: No.
C. CUOMO: Might you think about it at some point?
A. CUOMO: No.
C. CUOMO: How can you know what you might think about at some point right now?
A. CUOMO: Because I know what I might think about, and what I won’t think about.
Which is pretty Sherman-esque! It is also pretty short-sighted by Cuomo (Andrew, that is).
Look: I get that at this moment, with his state – and New York City in particular – at the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic and with thousands hospitalized and likely more than a thousand dead, Cuomo doesn’t want to have a conversation about his political future.
Not only would it be unseemly, but I am sure he truly isn’t really thinking all that much about it. He is literally trying to beat back a virus with no vaccine and no herd immunity. That’s more than a full-time job.
But the reality – and trust me, someone who has been in and around politics for as long as Andrew Cuomo knows this – is that a) he is getting extremely high marks not just in New York but nationally for his take-the-bull-by-the-horns approach to the crisis and b) the fight against coronavirus will be the defining moment in not only his governorship but his political career to date.
To that first point, an almost-unheard-of 87% of New Yorkers approve of the job Cuomo is doing in battling the coronavirus, according to a new Siena College poll. Cuomo’s overall job approval in that same poll is at 63% while is personal favorability is at 71%.
Those are stratospherically high numbers for any politician in any situation. And while they won’t last forever, most politicians – particularly ones who have been around for as long as Cuomo – never even approach those heights. And numbers like that are the sort of thing that can drastically alter the trajectory of a politician’s career.
Cuomo’s trajectory prior to the coronavirus outbreak was almost certainly to run for a fourth term as governor in 2022. (New York doesn’t have term limits.) Cuomo’s father, Mario, ran for a fourth term in 1994 but lost in a Republican national wave to George Pataki. To run and win a fourth term would be for Andrew Cuomo a win to both honor his father and do what his father could never do.
(Side note: If Cuomo won in 2022, he would be the first New York governor to be elected to a fourth term since Nelson Rockefeller in 1970.)
And when this coronavirus pandemic ends – and it will end – that may still be the path that Cuomo chooses! He is a New Yorker through and through and has repeatedly said he has the job he always wanted.
Of course, if Cuomo was to reverse course in the future and run for president, he’d be joining a long list of politicians who denied interest or even ruled out the race before finally running. In fact, Barack Obama flatly ruled out a presidential run before reversing course. And if Obama is a test case, voters seem not to care about that sort of flip-flop.
But there will be, without doubt, a chance in the future for Cuomo to consider running for president. (It seems very unlikely Cuomo would somehow enter the presidential race in 2020, given that he has already endorsed Joe Biden and the two are longtime allies with similar views on what government can and should do.)
Cuomo is 62 years old. For the sake of argument, let’s say Biden loses to President Donald Trump this November. The Democratic nomination will be wide open in 2024 when Cuomo will be 66. Or maybe Biden wins in November. If he serves eight years, the Democratic nomination for president will be open (although presumably Biden’s VP would run) in 2028. When Cuomo will be 70 – the same age Elizabeth Warren was when she ran for president in 2020 and almost a decade younger than the two remaining 2020 Democratic candidates – Biden and Bernie Sanders – are right now.
My point is not that Cuomo will run for president under either of these scenarios. He may not! Rather, it’s to point out that neither of these scenarios are implausible. In fact, they are decidedly plausible – given his massively raised national profile from his work in New York on the coronavirus and the legacy that performance is likely to leave.
In short: Politicians – particularly those with a profile like Cuomo’s – should never rule out a run for higher office. Life has a way of changing your best-laid plans.