Jewish World Review Sept. 9, 2002 / 3 Tishrei, 5763
For the reasons stated. Cuomo said he was dropping out because the only way he could prevail was by running a negative campaign against McCall-and he just wouldn't do that. That shouldn't be taken quite literally: With his acerbic tongue, Cuomo is always capable of going negative. But there is a reason going negative could be counterproductive. Going negative against a black candidate-McCall will be the first black Democratic nominee for governor-could arouse negative feelings among black voters, who make up about one quarter of a 51 percent Democratic majority, and among some nonblack voters who might find such an attack distasteful. In the 2001 mayoral race, many Latino voters and some others evidently resented the way Democratic primary winner Mark Green attacked opponent Fernando Ferrer, who is of Puerto Rican background; Republican Michael Bloomberg carried the Latino vote in the general election. It's hard for a white Democratic politician to run against a black or Latino in a primary without alienating voters he will need in the general election.
Because he wants to be politically viable in 2006. A primary loss or a primary victory followed by a weak showing in the general election would destroy Cuomo's chances to run for governor in 2006. Both he and McCall are trailing far behind incumbent Republican George Pataki, who has had sky-high job ratings since September 11; Pataki has also benefited from gratitude from hospital worker union leaders for funneling money into hospitals and from landing a new high-tech center near Albany. In polls Pataki leads among Latino voters, runs nearly even in New York City, and runs far ahead in the suburbs and upstate. So Cuomo's withdrawal is a sign he decided the nomination wasn't worth having. McCall is 66 and, if he loses by a wide margin, will not be a contender in 2006. The likely Democratic nominee then is state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who has been getting great gobs of publicity by subpoenaing records from Wall Street firms. But Cuomo's withdrawal allows him to think-though I suspect wrongly-that he could still be a contender.
To accommodate the Clintons. Present at Cuomo's withdrawal statement was Chappaqua, N.Y., resident Bill Clinton. According to news reports, he had been among those urging Cuomo to withdraw. Why should he care? Because the Cuomo candidacy put Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in an uncomfortable position. She was under pressure from black politicians to endorse McCall, as her senior colleague, Sen. Charles Schumer, did. But she surely did not want to come out against Cuomo, who served the Clinton administration loyally and vigorously for eight years. And who is married to a Kennedy. Since 1992, the Clintons always have always been careful to court the Kennedys and the Cuomos-the liberals whose support could help and whose opposition could injure them most, as Edward Kennedy's opposition injured Jimmy Carter. But the pressure was growing uncomfortable. Senator Clinton chose to march with McCall, but not with Cuomo, at Monday's West Indian American Day Carnival Parade in Brooklyn. Cuomo evidently took the hint. Some political royal families are more royal than others.
As a concession to reality. Cuomo's candidacy was really over last
spring when he quipped to an upstate audience that George Pataki
simply "held the leader's coat" when he stood beside Mayor Rudolph
Giuliani on and after September 11. This was not at all the way most
voters saw it, and it was characteristic of Cuomo's political
weaknesses-overaggressiveness, acerbity, indiscipline. However much
he may still cling to his hopes for 2006, from that moment on it was
clear that this generation's Cuomo was not going to be governor of New
York. So why not just get it over with a week early?
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