And they’re off! Liberal governors jockey left with eyes on White House race

“There is no question that outside of same-sex marriage there were not a lot of high-profile liberal issues that the governor was outspoken on,” Mr. Greenberg said. “Now we see more of them.”Over the past year, though, Mr. Cuomo has been thrust to the forefront of another hot-button national issue — fracking for natural gas. And he hasn’t rushed to please Democratic activists on this one.

Mr. Cuomo has come under immense pressure both to allow and to ban the new drilling technique on the Marcellus Shale that New York shares with neighboring Pennsylvania, which is reaping economic benefits. Mr. Cuomo has managed to frustrate energy-industry champions who want to drill now and environmentalists who want a definitive ban, proposing more study of the environmental effects and neither allowing nor banning the procedure.

Mr. O'Malley, though he is not under the type of national scrutiny Mr. Cuomo is, has hewed to a similar line in Maryland. He has let stand an existing de facto moratorium while state regulators study the matter and has proposed $1.5 million for further study while delaying a final decision for now.

The political shift has coincided with a dip in Mr. Cuomo’s approval rating, and pollsters blame that on the speed with which he pushed his new gun control package, which is very unpopular among Republicans, especially in the rural upstate regions of New York.A Quinnipiac University poll released last month showed that his approval rating has plummeted from 74 percent in December to 55 percent in March, and a Siena College poll found that more people now describe Mr. Cuomo as a “liberal,” and fewer dub him as a “moderate.”

“There is certainly the perception among all the insiders that in his State of the State address in January he laid out a much more liberal agenda, a much more progressive social agenda,” Mr. Greenberg said. “The governor and his team argue that, ‘No, there is no shift,’ as much as his first two years were completely focused on economic and fiscal issues. And now that that seems to be in not-as-bad shape, he is now focusing, in addition to that, on some of the social issues.”

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