The Cuomo-Nixon debate over the temperature in the hall is going to be... something

Despite the fact that the polls haven’t shifted more than a few points in six months, actress Cynthia Nixon still believes she’s got a chance to shock the world and beat New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in their primary race. She’ll have her one and only chance to demonstrate her political chops against him face to face this evening when the two contenders take the stage for their sole debate. It will take place at 5 pm local time but won’t air on television across the state until 7 pm.

They weren’t waiting until the stage was set to begin the fireworks, however. Nixon appeared determined to start an early debate over climate. She’s not talking about global warming this time, however. Nixon is complaining that the temperature in the debate hall is going to be too low and that’s a sexist concession to the Governor. (Washington Times)

A top strategist for New York gubernatorial hopeful Cynthia Nixon has accused organizers of an upcoming debate of catering to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s every demand after a request to keep the university hall at 76 degrees went unanswered.

In an email to debate organizer WCBS-TV, obtained by The New York Times, Nixon campaign strategist Rebecca Katz asked that the debate hall at Hofstra University on Long Island be warmed to 76 degrees.

Working conditions are “notoriously sexist when it comes to room temperature, so we just want to make sure we’re all on the same page here,” Ms. Katz reportedly wrote.

Among Cuomo’s other supposedly sexist demands is that there will be no handshake between the candidates. This has Nixon’s team particularly incensed because she apparently really likes shaking hands or something.

So what’s with the temperature argument? It’s August and New York is in the middle of a heatwave. You’d imagine that the people watching the debate might like a chance to cool off in the hall. And with a lot of bodies in a tight space, it can warm up quickly. Why would Nixon want to jack the temperature up even higher? Does she think she can make Cuomo break out in a sweat, reminiscent of the famous, first televised presidential debate between JFK and her namesake, Richard Nixon? Cuomo will no doubt be wearing a suit, but Nixon could probably get away with a sundress or something, so that might give her a leg up in the perspiration department.

Okay… I have zero ideas as to how we interpret this. I’m just swinging wildly here and trying to guess what the strategic value of this seemingly pointless argument might be. For their part, Cuomo’s team was blowing off the argument, saying that Nixon’s campaign “thrives on paranoia and melodrama, and these silly accusations are more of the same.”

To be sure, political debates almost always feature some arguments about the logistics. You don’t want to look shorter than your opponent while standing at the lectern. Poor lighting can make you look worse. But these complaints just sound silly, to borrow a word from Cuomo’s spokesperson. What will likely be more interesting when they get underway is how Nixon handles herself. Cuomo has been doing this forever and will no doubt be polite to his opponent and try to stick to the issues. Nixon has been accusing him of everything under the sun in an effort to build up some momentum, so I’ll be watching to see if she brings up the corruption trials surrounding him and all of his campaign finance questions.

This is a state-level race, but for those of you who can find a place to watch, it may be worth your time. This is one blue-on-blue fight that could wind up producing fireworks.

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