Why Cuomo may be opening the door, ever slightly, for a presidential run
ALBANY - Last August, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the only caveat for him serving out his four-year term "is if God strikes me dead."
And repeatedly since then, Cuomo, the longest-serving governor in the country, has stressed he has no plans to run for president in 2020.
In January, in fact, he said former Vice President Joe Biden, a Cuomo friend, has the "best case" among the Democratic presidential hopefuls.
But a lengthy profile in The Atlanticand Cuomo's comments Monday suggest if Biden doesn't run, the Democratic governor might reassess his prospects as he highlights his progressive accomplishment since taking office in 2011 and rails against President Donald Trump.
"We live our lives on a set of assumptions and a set of realities," Cuomo said Monday on WAMC, a public-radio station in Albany.
"I have a set of assumptions as to who is going to run and what that means for the country and what this Democratic election is going to look like."
The Atlantic piece ended with Cuomo suggesting that without Biden in the race, the governor might reconsider his stance that he would not run in 2020.
"If, if, if, if,” he said. “Call me when we get the fifth if.”
Highlighting his record
But if Cuomo is deferring to Biden, who is largely expected to enter the field, it hasn't stopped Cuomo from promoting his record and defending his progressive credentials.
"I’m the uber progressive," Cuomo said Monday.
"Name a person who has gotten more progressive things done than I have. Name a governor, name a senator, name a mayor whose done more progressive things than in the state of New York. You cannot."
Cuomo's comment go to the core of his tenure as governor: He has been a pragmatic politician who scoffs at those who are focused more on rhetoric than results — especially as the Democratic Party moves more to the left.
His accomplishments go to the heart of the progressive movement, he says: a $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, free college tuition for the middle class, stronger gun laws and strengthened abortion rights.
"You cannot be a progressive if you have not created progress," he continued Monday.
Warning to Democrats
Cuomo on Monday continued to not only knock President Donald Trump but also to warn Democrats to not move too far to the left, saying it allows Trump the ability to scare voters heading into the 2020 race.
He called Trump a mere "marketer," saying, "He is eating this up with a spoon what the Democratic Party is now feeding him. And he wants to make this election American values versus socialism, communism."
Asked whether he is singling out any Democratic candidate, such as Bernie Sanders, he said no, and Cuomo didn't say he is reconsidering a White House run.
Cuomo isn't mentioned in national presidential polls, and he has indicated no plans to visit early primary states as other presidential candidates, such as New York Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand, or prospective candidates, like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, are doing.
He recently, however, said he will build a national coalition to beat back the federal tax cut that disproportionately hurts high-tax, blue states including New York.
He has also sought to link his agenda in New York to Franklin Roosevelt, a former New York governor and the state's last Democratic president. He held his inaugural Jan. 1 on Ellis Island to symbolize the state's openness amid federal fights over immigration.
Talking national politics
He has waded more into national politics since Trump took office, ripping the president for policies that he contends hurts New York.
Yet he has also met with Trump several times to discuss transportation funding and the federal tax law. But at the same time, he brought House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to New York last week when he signed a gun-control law.
On Monday, he called on Democrats to not stray from a results-based agenda that voters will want.
He handily won a third term last November.
"I think it’s essential that the Democrats win. I am frightened out of my shoes about President Trump. And I think the Democrats should win unless the Democrats blow it. And I believe the Democrats are capable of blowing it," Cuomo said.
"So I’ve had conversations with people obviously, and I think certain people are going to get into the race, and I’m basing my assumptions on that."