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Writer Phil Reisman questions whether or not former Governor Andrew Cuomo will attempt a comeback at some point in the future.
“[Cuomo]… has no interest in running for office again.”
—Spokesperson from the governor’s office, Aug 24, 2021
If you buy that, I have a toll bridge in Tarrytown I’d like to sell you. Truth is, some politicians never go away. Brought low by ignominy, these creatures roam the earth in a bitter, never-ending search for the power, relevance, and public adulation they once had but squandered.
They are the undead.
Andrew Cuomo is one who has not gone away.
For months now, Cuomo has been orchestrating a comeback from exile. Financed by a bulging war chest that started out at $18 million, it’s been a free-spending campaign of slick 30-second TV spots, personal appearances at friendly churches with large African American congregations, and not-so-secret strategy meetings with prominent political figures (Hello, Chris Christie!). Along the way, he’s utilized a fiercely loyal team of aggressive, well-paid surrogates and spinmeisters who answer his critics.
It’s been weirdly entertaining to watch. What will Cuomo do next?
Here’s just one scenario that may produce flop sweat: Out of spite, he runs for governor as an Independent (Excelsior Party, anyone?), divides the Democratic vote and hands victory to the Republican candidate. Or, he outright wins.
Cuomo, 64, claims he is a victim of cancel culture and that the 11 women who accused him of sexual harassment either lied or willfully misconstrued his intentions. He says he was “cleared” by five district attorneys, who decided not to charge him with a criminal offense, while neglecting to add that each of the prosecutors acknowledged that the women’s complaints were nevertheless credible. Cuomo’s ire is directly aimed at state Attorney General Letitia James, whose damning report on the scandal, he says, amounted to a “political hit job.”
While conceding he’s “not perfect” and has “made mistakes,” Cuomo also brags about his accomplishments, as if to suggest that exile or no, it is he who possesses rightful occupancy of the Albany throne. Some recent polling data has given him a modicum of encouragement.
Nevertheless, the consensus among pundits is that the exiled governor should be taken at his original word — that he will never again seek political office. This supposes he will settle for a rehabilitated image that leads to a job in the private sector and a chance to influence public policy.
Still, some die-hard fans want Cuomo to return to elective office and even make a run for the White House, a goal that was all but certain when he drew national acclaim for soothing the public’s fears during the pandemic. The world will not soon forget the fawning “Cuomosexuals,” the flattening curve, the giant swab, and the unravelling of the nursing home scandal.
A Cuomo presidency “seemed a lock” as a result of his tour-de-force performance during the pandemic lockdown. “There was only one force greater than Andrew’s power at that point: his capacity for messing things up.”
William O’Shaughnessy, the president and editorial director of WVOX radio in New Rochelle and a longtime friend and confidant of the late Mario Cuomo, hasn’t wavered in his hope that Mario’s eldest son, despite the odds, will rise again. O’Shaughnessy once predicted that Cuomo will “ride this out. And one day he’ll be president.”
That’s pie-in-the-sky thinking, according to Michael Shnayerson, who wrote The Contender, the only definitive book about Andrew Cuomo’s relentless quest for power. Running for president was always in Cuomo’s plans, Shnayerson observed in 2015. “The only question is when.”
A Cuomo presidency “seemed a lock” as a result of his tour-de-force performance during the pandemic lockdown, Shnayerson told me. “There was only one force greater than Andrew’s power at that point: his capacity for messing things up.”
Shnayerson recalled another Cuomo screwup, back in 2002, when he ran for governor the first time and made the fatal error of mocking George Pataki for “holding Mayor Giuliani’s coat” after the 9/11 attacks.
“Now, he did it again, with all that slobbering over women,” Shnayerson continued. “The press fell away; the charges as they multiplied left us wondering: Was there any job Andrew might land? Certainly not in electoral politics. Cuomo had seen to that.”
If he were to write another book on Cuomo, Shnayerson said he’d title it The Self-Destructor.
But should the former contender be written off? Like Napoleon, can Cuomo return from exile? After all, New York State has an Elba too — not an island but a small town in Genesee County. I hear it’s a nice place.
What is abundantly clear is that Cuomo isn’t going away. He said as much to a church audience in March.
Looking heavenward, he said, “God isn’t finished with me yet.”