- The Washington Times - Monday, March 30, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has emerged as the Democrat of the moment as he leads New York’s response to the coronavirus.

The daily press conferences in which he delivers sobering assessments of his state’s worst-in-the-nation crisis have earned him plaudits from many quarters — and given Democrats a national figure rivaling President Trump amid the coronavirus crisis.

“He has filled a national void,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic consultant who has worked against and for Mr. Cuomo. “He and Trump are in competition for the spotlight, no question, and Trump appears to be in many ways less credible than Cuomo because Cuomo keeps saying it is going to get worse and Trump says this will disappear immediately.”

Mr. Cuomo, in his third term as governor, was one of the first to impose a shelter-in-place policy for residents. He’s also battled, cajoled and praised the federal government over its response.

Even as New York cases of COVID-19 soar, so does Mr. Cuomo’s popularity.

His favorable-unfavorable rating is now 71-23 to the positive among state residents, according to a Siena College poll Monday. That’s up from 44-50 last month.

His handling of the coronavirus crisis earns the approval of 87% of state residents in the poll, including 70% of Republicans. Mr. Trump, meanwhile, got positive reviews from just 41% of respondents.

The president is tracking Mr. Cuomo’s performance and said Monday he would have made a better presidential nominee for his party than current front-runner Joseph R. Biden — though Mr. Trump claimed some credit for Mr. Cuomo’s rise.

“One of the reasons his numbers are high on handling it is because of the federal government,” Mr. Trump said on “Fox & Friends.” “Because we give him ships, and we give him ventilators and we give him all of the things that we are giving him. … We’re giving him four hospitals and four medical centers and all of the things that we have done.”

Before the virus, Mr. Cuomo was prepping for a fight over a $6 billion gap in the state budget that he had blamed in large part on a minimum wage increase and increased Medicaid costs. He faced anger even among the Democratic Party’s left wing, which has long questioned his commitment to liberal goals.

That’s disappeared amid the virus.

“Voters are seeing a side of Cuomo that they rarely if ever have seen, and that is the personal side of Andrew Cuomo,” said Steven Greenberg, a pollster with Siena College. “He is talking about his mom, talking about his daughters, trying to be a comforter.”

The pollster said Mr. Cuomo has shown the ability to be reassuring, even as he’s delivering grim news about the virus.

It’s very different than the rough and gruff style he displayed for much of his political career, part of a political dynasty — his father also served three terms as governor — while making a name for himself, first as a Cabinet official in the Clinton administration and then as New York’s attorney general.

“He knows the state inside out, and he knows politics inside out, and he was basically his father’s Lee Atwater and Karl Rove,” said a New York-based GOP consultant, who has followed Mr. Cuomo’s career. “He is the governor, he is the candidate, he is the campaign manager — all rolled into one.”

Speaking Monday in New York, Mr. Cuomo said the number of positive coronavirus cases in the state had risen to 66,000 and the death toll has climbed to 1,218 — up from 965 deaths a day earlier.

“That is a lot of loss, that is a lot of pain, that is a lot of tears, that is a lot of grief that people all across this state are feeling,” Mr. Cuomo said.

He said his administration is mapping out its response based on the advice of scientists, health care professionals, and data.

“There is no crystal ball, but there is science and there is data and there are health professionals who have studied this virus and its progress since China,” he said.

Asked about Mr. Trump’s comments, Mr. Cuomo said he takes the president’s comments as a compliment and said his focus is working with the president whenever possible to help protect New York.

“If you are doing the right thing by New York, I will say it,” Mr. Cuomo said. “If he is doing the wrong thing for New York, or the rest of the country, I will say it. But I am not going to engage in politics.”

Some analysts warn not to read too much into Mr. Cuomo’s popularity spike, pointing out that former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and New York Gov. George Pataki saw their support skyrocket following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

They both made runs for the GOP’s presidential nomination — Mr. Giuliani in 2008, and Mr. Pataki in 2016. Both ended badly.

“Down the road speculation tends to be destructive,” Mr. Sheinkopf said. “Talk to ‘President’ Rudy Giuliani.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide

Sponsored Stories