If he looks like a gubernatorial candidate and he talks like a gubernatorial candidate, but hasn't said he is one ... what is he?
Formal declaration or not, the one-term attorney general's intent to run a second time for the office held by his father, Mario, was a certainty to Democratic leaders gathering in Niagara Falls.
That was evident even before he arrived just in time for the opening night dinner and soaked in his first standing ovation between the salad and smothered steak. Several more ovations followed during a campaign-style speech during which he called Albany's legislative process a disgrace and said fixing the state's financial problems would require more than balancing the budget.
"This state is in drastic need of change and reform today," Cuomo said last night. "We have to clean up the mess in Albany. We have to clean up the disgrace that is the legislative process."
"This upcoming election is the most important election for the state of New York in my lifetime, in my 52 years," he bellowed to a crowd of about 300 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. "This state is at a crossroads and I believe depending on what we do now this state will go up or this state will go down."
But in a scrum with reporters before leaving through the hotel's kitchen, he stuck to his script, deflecting questions about his campaign.
The organization's straw poll vote is considered a bellwether for candidates seeking the party's nomination in the summer convention. The vote is scheduled for Saturday.
"I would have loved to have a declared candidate for governor at our straw poll convention," DRC Chairwoman Irene Stein said, acknowledging it was "highly possible" Cuomo would be nominated from the floor.
"If he runs I'm going to vote for him," said Patricia Mackay of Chenango County, who was willing to give Cuomo a pass for the delay.
Gov. David Paterson did his part to build the anticipation.
"There is a very exceptional leader who has a rare combination of skills. ... He is courageous, perceptive and outspoken and I am hoping he will run for governor this year," the outgoing governor said at the podium. "And his name is — Well, he'll speak for himself."
The DRC was formed to represent rural New Yorkers and is composed of members from 47 counties with a population of less than 250,000. Its members are county chairs and state committee members, but any Democrat can be an associate member by paying dues too.
Cuomo faces no announced Democratic opposition for governor and Democrats seeking the attorney general's job have long noted they wouldn't run against him. Cuomo would face several Republicans for governor, including former congressman Rick Lazio and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy.
Also in the hunt for the GOP nomination are Buffalo millionaire developer Carl Paladino and Albany County lawyer Warren Redlich.