Discussing Cuomo's Glow
September 28th, 2011
Even on a day a public employee union dealt him a serious setback few would deny that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has emerged as an exceedingly adroit politician. And none of members of a panel on Cuomo and the Media at the New School last night even tried to.
If their assessments of the governor varied at all, they ranged from skilled to brilliant. And the four reporters, joined by one pollster, did differ on how long the governor could keep his glow.
“This is an administration incredibly interested in managing their message. They are enormously good at it. They are artists,” Liz Benjamin of State of Politics and the evening’s moderator said, setting the tone from the get-go.
To control his image and his message, the governor and his minions call and lobby reporters ceaselessly but rarely publicly. “He almost never goes on the record in a free setting,” said the New York Times‘ Nick Confessore.
The panelists seemed almost in awe of Cuomo’s skills — his ability to listen to people and engage with them, his focus on two or three key things and skill at avoiding distractions, his hard work, his smarts, his ease with “working a room.” (Panelists declined to discuss his capacity observed on at a lake in the Adirondacks last month, to walk on water)
“His job is to manage his positive image, and he’s doing an excellent job,” said Steve Greenberg, pollster with the Siena Research Institute.
So will his star ever fade?
Possible answers after the jump.
Noting that Cuomo had managed to achieve huge –- over 70 percent – -approval ratings in grim fiscal times, Greenberg said he saw “nothing on the horizon” that could touch him.
Others had doubts. Wayne Barrett, formerly of the Village Voice and now with the Nation Institute, said thinks redistricting could trip Cuomo up. Redistricting, he said, “is the test of whether there’s some moral fiber to Andrew Cuomo.” (For more on where that stands – and speculation about what Cuomo might do – see Groups Split, Rumor Fly as Redistricting Reform Remains Elusive.)
New York State Public Radio’s Karen DeWitt offered the continuing bad economy as a hazard. Confessor wondered about possible service cuts and what would happen when (this is Albany we’re talking about so you can’t say if) a legislator is indicted – despite the passage of Cuomo’s ethics bill.
While not debating the importance of such matters, Greenberg thought many voters really would not care – not enough, anyway, to tarnish Cuomo. “The public doesn’t pay attention the way I and the folks on this panel pay attention to these issues,” Greenberg said. “The governor is a great reader of polls. He’s going to know what the public cares about and focus on those issues.”
Greenberg even felt Cuomo could renege on his promise to veto the redistricting plan and survive. “If he wants to do it,” the pollster said, “there will be plenty of wiggle room, and he will not pay a serious price..”
But even Greenberg thought one issue the governor might not be able to finesse is whether to allow drilling for natural gas using a hydraulic fracturing or fracking in parts of the state.
“People feel incredibly passionate about this,” Benjamin said, adding that no matter what the governor does lots of people on one side or the other “are going to be pissed.”
Greenberg agreed. “this is a losing issue for the governor either way.”
But given his political skills and the lack of much credible opposition, things look pretty good for the governor. Barrett said, “Andy can be governor as long as he wants to be” – or, some might add, until he wants a bigger job — and that might present a challenge.
“A great moral issue of our time is whether you’re willing to tax rich people,” Barrett said, “and if you’re not willing to tax rich people, you’re not going to be the Democratic nominee in 2016.”By Gail Robinson on September 28, 2011, 6:45 pm
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