Whistling Past the… What?*

*  Choices:  (A) Rolfe;  (B)  Presbyterian;  (C) Christian;  (D)  Budd.

Above water but sinking; Governor Cuomo’s Approval Rating. Courtesy Morning Consult.

Posted February 23, 2021

Give the boss of our New York State Democratic Party credit for moxie.  Kudos, too, for his unique knack at political spin.   And also acknowledge that our party’s tightly-tethered political boss knows in whose pocket he snugly resides, as do we. 

Early Monday evening, February 22ndState Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs, in a blast email to Party members (including this writer), painted over an increasing preponderant problem facing our party and our state.  He did so with disingenuous pablum and super-simplified happy-talk:

“The latest poll results out today with the Governor at 57% reaffirms, once again, that Governor Cuomo enjoys broad-based support among New Yorkers. In spite of relentless political attacks, the people of the State, and Democrats overwhelmingly, understand that it is Governor Cuomo who provides the leadership and management that helps New Yorkers continue to weather the worst health crisis in recent history. It is time for everyone to refocus on the task in front of us: getting every New Yorker vaccinated and reopening the New York economy as safely and quickly as possible.”

In short: Our poor, courageous, battered Governor; riding high with the people, if only others would give him a pass.  To Jay Jacobs, Andrew Cuomo’s only trying to fight the good fight, using every tool in his (quasi-constitutional) arsenal to battle a disease that will kill us.  Give him some credit.  And give him some power; all the power he requires, indeed all the power he seizes for himself.  Put the blame where blame belongs, namely on those big, bad Republicans.  Plus add to those ranks the few, mutinous legislative Democrats whom Andrew Cuomo has a nasty habit of calling out, if only not by name.  Look at Cuomo’s poll numbers.  The people back him.  How dare we criticize?  (Now where can we find some vaccine?)

Chairman Jacobs only hopes we, the party loyal, don’t bother to look much deeper into that “Morning Consult” poll released just three hours before his statement, the one Jacobs sees as sprouting tulips for King Andrew’s political durability—including his potential coronation to a fourth term of office in 2022.  One wonders why Jacobs’ words flew forth with such lightning speed following the poll’s release.  Hint:  It’s called Damage Control.

Polls are about trends, not absolutes.  As you’d suspect in the lopsided Democratic state that is New York, polling keeps Cuomo above water.  It’s quite likely he’ll remain there, at least for a while.  But Cuomo’s latest 57 per cent approval rating represents a drop of six per cent in just ten days.  Revelations about the Governor’s less-than-transparent reporting of nursing home deaths stood as the intervening factor.  His lack of truthfulness—some call them outright lies—are hurting him.  The wounds may never heal.

As Morning Consult’s Eli Yokley wrote about Cuomo in a story accompanying the latest poll results,

“[A] still-unfolding scandal involving his administration’s purported undercounting of coronavirus-related deaths in the state’s nursing homes is taking a toll on the third-term governor’s popularity….”

Additionally, Yokley writes, “The share of New Yorkers who disapprove of Cuomo’s job performance also ticked up by 5 points — to 38 percent — in surveys conducted after the New York Post’s report, an indication that the appearance of a cover-up may be worse than the initial handling [of the nursing home scandal] for some Empire State voters.”

Those nasty internals; from the Morning Consult poll, Feb. 22, 2021

The poll’s internals become even more disturbing to our incumbent Governor.  Not only is Cuomo’s popularity slipping among Republicans—as you’d expect—and among Independents, but also among Democrats, albeit to a lesser extent.  The latest poll shows fully 16 per cent of Democrats either mildly or strongly disapprove of the job Andrew Cuomo is doing, compared with earlier polling that showed same-party disapproval only in the single digits.

For the first time in our governor’s seemingly endless tenure since the start of 2011, the word “endangered” is one pundits increasingly use to describe our once high-flying incumbent.  Red-county Republicans like our own Congressman, Tom Reed, and the North Country’s Elise Stefanik, are sharpening their political knives.  Talk of a Cuomo-for-President run in 2024 has all but vanished.  Indeed, one wonders if Eliot Spitzer-like history will repeat itself, and a Governor Hochul will be running our state come Election Day 2022.  The future could be fun.

True, New York politics, and political fortunes, can turn on a dime.  Andrew Cuomo may survive, indeed, thrive.  Controversies hold limited shelf life.  Constituent memories fade with each news cycle.  But as state lawmakers, the U.S. Justice Department and Andrew Cuomo’s own Attorney General dig deeper into our chief executive’s alleged obfuscation and fabrication, and as legislators, like Downstate’s Ron Kim, raise allegations of Cuomo’s attempts to strong-arm critics like him into lying to cover up  executive misdeeds, Party Chairman Jacobs’ smiley-faced optimism becomes increasing disingenuous—indeed, downright laughable.

Try to prop up your beleaguered governor all you want in your one-paragraph pep rallies to a friendly crowd, Chairman Jay.  We know who pulls your strings and whose favor you must curry.  The rest of us—especially us thinking, Upstate Democrats—know better.  We know we’ve got a problem here.  We know we must address the problem, not paper it over. 

I’ve written critiques about our less-than-perfect Empire State executive for much of the past year.  I’ve been thrown arrows by some for having done so.  But the polls are catching up.  The truth is catching up.  With time, they have a way of doing that.  The bloom is off the Andrew Cuomo rose.  Good.

Bob Lynch