If New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was still harboring any fantasies about being a viable presidential candidate in 2016,the last election should disabuse him of that notion. In order to be viable on a national level you need to be able to persuade more than just the most dedicated members of your hardcore base. Now that the race is finished and the board of elections has had time to tally and break down all the ballots, Cuomo is finding an unpleasant surprise in the numbers. Outside of the massive, hugely liberal enclaves of New York City, the voters went for his opponent.
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo is inaugurated for a second term in January, he will have New York City voters to thank.
Cuomo’s 13-percentage-point win over Republican challenger Rob Astorino on Nov. 4 was fueled by a large margin of victory in New York City, where he took home 77 percent of the nearly 1 million ballots cast, according to the state Board of Election’s unofficial results.
Take away the city, however, and the rest of the state backed Astorino — albeit by a slim margin. Outside of the five boroughs, Astorino collected 1.3 million votes — or 49 percent — compared to Cuomo’s 1.2 million, or 46 percent, in a low-turnout election. Three third-party candidates were also on the ballot.
Astorino was doomed from the beginning, and every honest analyst not named Astorino was admitting it privately early in the year. That’s not a comment on the candidate as much as a nod to the reality on the ground. The somewhat schizophrenic nature of the Empire State keeps it divided between the more conservative, western upstate expanse and the Big Apple. The city still outnumbers the rest of the state by a fair margin, and that has stopped the GOP from winning any statewide elections for more than a decade.
The money game was even more lopsided than the generic ballot count. Astorino managed to raise roughly $5M compared to the governor’s war chest of more than $45M. But four years ago Cuomo managed to carry the upstate vote, albeit by a slim margin. What changed?
Well, for one thing, Astorino was just a more salable candidate in both resume and perception. During the Tea Party wave of 2010 the GOP wound up sending Carl Paladino into battle. Carl was a billionaire with no government experience and – let’s be honest – the look of a cartoon super villain on television. But just putting a more appealing face on the ballot doesn’t account for a shift of this size. Since we lack a functional press in New York willing to cover both sides of a political story, the answer doesn’t show up in the linked news reports. But the reality is that Cuomo’s vastly overreaching gun grabbing law is unpopular outside of Manhattan. While the NY SAFE Act gets a “2 – 1 margin of support” statewide, that support is mostly in the city. A majority of upstate voters disapprove of the measure and the costs in both jobs and personal liberty.
Unfortunately, that margin isn’t enough for the GOP to win a statewide race. At least not yet. And if the policies coming out of Albany keep driving jobs (and population) out of the state, it may never swing back the other way.