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Andrew Cuomo Is Going to Win but Not with the Landslide He Wants

The New York governor is essentially guaranteed to win re-election but not by so much that he can secure his spot as a top contender for president.

In politics, you're only invulnerable if people think you are. Andrew Cuomo isn't going to be beat in his bid for re-election as governor of New York, but he's not going to pile up the massive margins that he'd hoped. 

"He'll be dissatisfied, guaranteed, because he wants unanimity behind him," said Maurice Carroll, a pollster at Quinnipiac University.

Carroll emphasized that Cuomo will capture the Democratic nomination easily on Tuesday and go on to victory in November. No one doubts that. But Cuomo will not get the kind of coronation he might have expected and that would reinforce his standing in the top ranks of Democratic presidential contenders, should Hillary Clinton opt not to run in 2016.

Some Democratic operatives are predicting his primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout, could take as much as 30 percent of the vote, which would lead to plenty of embarrassing media coverage about Cuomo's apparent weakness.

Teachout is receiving support from those on the left who are unhappy about the deals that Cuomo has made with the Republicans who run the state Senate, tax cuts he's offered corporations, his changes in pension policy and his decision to shut down an ethics commission.

The New York Times pointedly refused to endorse Cuomo in Tuesday's Democratic primary. The newspaper stopped short of supporting Teachout, but some left-leaning groups are openly backing her.

"Her involvement with the working class made her the candidate of choice," said Susan Kent, president of the New York State Public Employees Federation. "She has proven not to be a corporate Democrat serving big-money donors."

Cuomo, meanwhile, doesn't seem to have sparked a great deal of enthusiasm. For all his successes -- getting what he's wanted from the legislature on budgets and pushing through a same-sex marriage law, for instance -- he is not riding a wave of popular support.

Cuomo might have done some things that Upper West Side liberals like, but his centralized approach to governance doesn't make people feel like they've shared in the victories, suggested Daniel DiSalvo, a political scientist at the City College of New York.

"There's a frustration that there's not a kind of inclusion in decision-making on issues that liberals want to be part of," DiSalvo said. "The way Cuomo operates is quite close-lipped and doesn't go as far as they'd want to."

It's much easier to find positive commentary on social media about Teachout or her running mate, Tim Wu -- who some are predicting might beat Cuomo partner Kathy Hochul -- than it is to find kind words about Cuomo.

In fact, the inevitability of his re-election may lead some potential voters to stay home, Carroll suggested. "People know he's going to win, so they'll go shopping or something," he said.

Carroll's right: Cuomo is going to win. Beyond the buzz the race is currently getting, that may be all that matters.

If and when Cuomo does decide to run for president, losing some support from the New York left might end up being helpful, allowing him to position himself as more of a centrist, said DiSalvo, who is also a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

The main question will be whether he suffers enough damage to force him to do things to appease liberals in a second term.

"If the Democrats take back the state Senate, he'll have a lot of pressure to spend more," DiSalvo said. 

Alan Greenblatt is a senior staff writer for Governing. He can be found on Twitter at @AlanGreenblatt.
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