Nearly a year ago, New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that all nonessential workers in the state would have to stay home. The announcement was one of many that marked the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
From there, Cuomo’s popularity rose, just like that of his fellow politicians California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, and then-President Donald Trump, a Republican.
But, just as history has shown us time and time again, a year turned out to be a lifetime in their political careers. All have either been vanquished or are fighting for their political lives.
Cuomo, Newsom and Trump all experienced classic examples of a rally-around-the-flag event. When a crisis hits, constituents give their leading politicians bumps in the polls. These bumps rarely ever last – a lesson all three of these politicians have now learned.
Cuomo was probably seen as the biggest hero of the early days of the pandemic. He gave daily news conferences that became must-see television for many. He even wrote a book about leadership.
Cuomo’s popularity climbed sky high, and there was even talk about him running for president. In an April 2020 Siena College poll, Cuomo’s favorable rating jumped to 77%. Just two months earlier, his favorable rating had been 44% – a paltry figure for a Democrat from a blue state.
His favorable rating was down to 57% in January 2021 after Covid-19 cases swung back up in New York.
Then a wave of political disasters hit for Cuomo. Over the past few weeks, there have been reports that his top aides allegedly altered data to hide a higher death toll among the state’s nursing home residents.
More prominently, Cuomo is dealing with multiple allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women. The attorney general’s office is investigating the claims, and the state Assembly speaker has allowed an impeachment investigation to begin. Many state and federal officials are calling on Cuomo to resign.
The results in the polls, which were fielded before some of the more recent allegations made by women and calls to resign, have been quite bad for Cuomo.
His favorable rating is down to 44% and a mere 36% of voters want him to run for reelection, according to a March Quinnipiac University poll.
The one piece of good news for Cuomo is that most Democrats (60%) have a favorable view of the governor, a slim majority (50%) want him to run again in 2022 and just 21% want him to resign.
If those numbers hold in a state as Democratic as New York, Cuomo might be able to survive the scandals.
Things look better for his counterpart on the West Coast. Newsom isn’t facing anywhere near that type of opposition from his own party. Still, it’s been quite the bumpy political road for the governor of California.
California was one of the earliest states hit in the pandemic, and most voters applauded Newsom’s response. His approval rating among likely voters in Public Policy Institute of California polling topped out at 64% in May 2020. That was up from 52% in February 2020 and 49% in January 2020.
Newsom, though, has been criticized for how he handled lockdowns and business and school reopenings during the last year.
He’s now facing a recall effort, which may make the ballot. At this point, the recall would probably be unsuccessful even if it did reach the voters.
Still, the fact that Newsom is facing a recall and that his approval rating is averaging only about 50% right now is not a great position for a Democrat in California.
Of course, both Cuomo and Newsom are in better political shape than Trump. While Trump ended up losing the election, at least in part to his response to the pandemic, voters actually had rallied around him early.
Trump’s approval rating leaped into the high 40s in a number of polls in late March 2020. A plurality of Americans approved of his handling of the crisis in a number of polls.
Trump, though, was seen as doing a poor job of dealing with the fallout from the pandemic. His news conferences were widely panned.
By the summer, Trump’s overall approval rating dropped into the low 40s. He consistently low on who would better handle the pandemic compared with Democrat Joe Biden, who’s now president.
Indeed, Trump may very well have won the election without the pandemic. His approval rating on the economy was better than that of any of the incumbents who had lost in the last 45 years before him.
Unfortunately for Trump, crises can shift political winds dramatically. One year into the pandemic, those winds are blowing against Cuomo, Newsom and Trump.