I’ll confess that when I first heard news of Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon running in the New York Democratic primary against Governor Andrew Cuomo I was a bit skeptical. (To put it charitably.) Even when CNN boldly declared that the race was shaping up to be a blockbuster, I still had more than my fair share of doubts. Now the New York Post, an outlet which generally has their finger on the pulse of such things, is describing Cuomo as being in the fight of his life against Nixon. Tendrils of doubt suddenly begin creeping into the back of my mind. Could I have pegged this one completely wrong? Does she actually have a shot?
Stephen L. Miller, who covers politics for the Post, flatly declares that Nixon is “for real.” He gives her credit for a slickly produced campaign launch video, deftly portraying New York as the poster child for income inequality, cementing her image as someone near and dear to the Bernie Sanders wing of the party. He also gives her props for savvy social media skills, citing her clever, yet self-deprecating quip in response to Christine Quinn, who recently called her “an unqualified lesbian.”
All this, Miller claims, has sent Cuomo scrambling in an effort to shore up his far left credentials.
Suddenly Cuomo found himself lying on the ground with gun-control activists participating in a die-in as a response to the Parkland high-school shooting. After Nixon announced her candidacy, Cuomo visited New York City public housing — beset by scandal and mismanagement and dogging de Blasio’s second term — for the first time since Hurricane Sandy.
At Nixon’s first presser as an official candidate, she declared, “If Washington is a swamp, Albany is a cesspool,” an apparent reference to Joseph Percoco, Cuomo’s close aide and confidant who was convicted on federal charges of fraud and bribery.
And in an early stroke of campaign savvy, Nixon traveled to her own presser by subway — a presser she was late for, thanks to the complete deterioration of the state-run transit system.
The deplorable condition of the New York City subway system has people enraged. It’s a topic which Miller claims could make Nixon dangerous as a single issue candidate, though she’s running on far more than that. But what better message than one nearly as old as Manhattan? She’s just running because she wants to make sure the trains run on time.
Does that overcome the fact that, layers of the stench of corruption aside, Cuomo comes from a dynasty of experienced Empire State politicians while Nixon is a well-heeled (literally and figuratively) celebrity who springs from the privilege and wealth of Manhattan and Hollywood? I take it that we’re now at the stage where electing celebrities with no experience to powerful executive offices is the norm under this theory. Particularly in the northeast home of the #RESIST movement, how do they square that circle? Are you saying that the GOP nominating a reality television star with no government experience was actually a fine idea, but Trump was just the wrong celebrity with no experience? Good luck with that, but it sounds to me like a softball that Cuomo can easily hit out of the park if the polls begin to tighten and the gloves come off.
There’s another question about Nixon which hasn’t been addressed yet, however, and it deals with the duopoly which makes up New York State. The Big Apple is roughly 3/5 of the state in terms of population, but the rest is the redder, more rural upstate region. If you’re in a tight race in the city you have to be able to win over a respectable share of the far less liberal regions to the north and west. Your $1,000 Manolo Blahnik heels might impress the heck out of big donors in the canyons of Manhattan, but I wouldn’t expect them to wear very well in the cow pastures of Herkimer County and beyond. Cuomo doesn’t do very well upstate against a Republican in the general election, but he sails through pretty easily against other liberals in the primary. Nixon will have her work cut out for her up in the Adirondacks.
I still haven’t heard enough to change my mind. As horrible of a governor as Cuomo has been and as much as it might give me a wry sense of amusement to see him get knocked around in the primary, it’s hard to see him being in all that much trouble. Let’s wait for a few more polling cycles and see if he at least sinks down to somewhere near fifty before we begin writing his political obituary.