Andrew Cuomo Finding His Voice as a Liberal Lion

As I watched Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivering his state of the state address on Wednesday, I recalled another Cuomo delivering another speech 29 years ago.

I remember how Andrew Cuomo’s father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, a skillful orator, brought the house down at the 1984 Democratic National Convention with a speech about the need for love, compassion and family values. He was hailed by pundits as a likely candidate for President of the United States at some future time.

But it didn’t happen. Mario Cuomo ultimately decided not to run for president. He was a man of deep convictions, a passionate man who embodied the New Deal philosophy that defined Democratic policies for much of the 20th Century. But, as political analysts finally concluded, Mario Cuomo, simply did not have the “fire in the belly” to make a run for president.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has delivered his third state of the state message. He doesn’t have the sonorous voice of his father. But, as he laid down an agenda for change and progress, there was a trace of that old-time Democratic religion in his voice. After a rather restrained two years in office, the young governor came off as a young Democratic lion, affirming the old liberal values of his party.

I talked about it with a longtime Democratic analyst, Hank Sheinkopf. When the younger Cuomo first ran for governor in the Democratic primary of 2002, he brashly asserted that  former Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, had only “held {Mayor} Giuliani’s coat” in the days after Sept. 11. It was a remark that hurt Cuomo with the voters -- and he soon dropped out of the race.

Sheinkopf said it was a low point in Andrew Cuomo’s political career. But, after two years in office, “Cuomo now looks like the Governor, not a petulant child.”

Sheinkopf, fierce political opponent of young Cuomo, told me that “Andrew has proved himself in his first two years, taking on the unions, stabilizing the state’s financial situation. He has shown that he can get things done.”

It seems clear that Andrew Cuomo understands the feelings of New Yorkers. He won election two years ago, gaining more than 60 percent of the vote. His approval rating now stands above 70 percent.

Will he become a latter day incarnation of a young Democratic lion? Will he seek the presidential nomination in 2016?

Andrew Cuomo, has demonstrated a careful, measured approach to governing and a cautious approach to politics. He has managed to forge bipartisan consensus in Albany. In the next two years, he will, if the past is any indication, concentrate on getting re-elected. A presidential run will not be on the immediate agenda. Andrew is a pragmatic guy -- first things first.

As he concluded his state of the union address, Andrew’s voice rose in volume. He was almost strident as he declared war on the gun lobby, imploring America to “stop the madness!” and pass strict gun control laws. ”In one word, it’s just enough. It has been enough.”

It seemed to be all there -- the passion of a Democratic liberal and the need to mobilize progressive Americans against the scourge of guns. How this issue plays out in the years ahead may determine the political future of Andrew Cuomo.

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