How nervous are some Democrats about Joe Biden’s chances against President Trump this November? Nervous enough to entertain the notion that another Democrat — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — might swoop in and save the day.
Cuomo, who has been governor for nearly a decade and has one of the most famous names in Democratic politics, found new prominence when his state became the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in the United States. In February and March, some New York officials urged the public to maintain regular activities even as the virus took hold in the state, leading to the worst outbreak in the country. Now, with New York in crisis, the governor holds daily briefings that some politicos see as an effective counterpoint to Trump’s White House updates.
It did not take long for the hashtag #PresidentCuomo to appear on Twitter. And from there came the dream that perhaps Cuomo might somehow become the Democratic standard-bearer.
“I see Cuomo as the Democratic nominee this year,” entertainer Bill Maher said recently. “If we could switch Biden out for him, that’s the winner.”
But how? Among the states and territories, the Democratic Party will hold 57 primaries and caucuses this year. Thirty of them have already been held, after a campaign that began in the spring of 2019.
So far, 10,118,114 people have voted for Biden, while 7,665,794 have voted for second-place Bernie Sanders. Elizabeth Warren, now out of the race, picked up 2,466,729 votes for third place.
At this point, does someone — Party elders? The chairman of the Democratic National Committee? — tell the 10,118,114 people who voted for Biden: “Never mind. Gov. Cuomo will be your candidate now.” Or does someone tell the 7,665,794 who voted for Sanders: “Sorry, Biden won’t be the candidate, but neither will the second-place finisher.”
Remember the big deal some Democratic leaders and commentators made of the fact that the party’s African American voters had chosen Biden? Would that be thrown out, too?
Yes, there are some big states among the 27 that have not yet voted, among them Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. (Cuomo recently announced that his state’s primary, previously scheduled for April 28, will now take place June 23.) But Biden already has 1,215 of the 1,991 delegates required to clinch the Democratic nomination. Sanders has 909. There aren’t enough delegates up for grabs in remaining primaries for a new candidate to win.
Plus, apart from a write-in campaign, to allow Democrats in those states to vote for Cuomo would take throwing out all the party’s rules — the rules Biden, Sanders and the rest played by. And, of course, voters in the majority of states and territories that have already voted would never have the chance to consider Cuomo. Finally, even if all the rules were magically changed, the idea of Cuomo abandoning his current job at this critical time to run for president is nuts.
So the only way any Democrat could seriously hope for Cuomo as their presidential nominee would be a convention in which delegates threw out Biden, and Sanders, and started from scratch. And that would obliterate the fundamental principle of the candidate selection process: The nominee should be selected by the party’s voters. It is simple, straightforward and sacred.
More than anything else, the Cuomo boomlet is a reflection of some influential Democrats’ misgivings about Biden. They have always known that, at age 77, he has lost a step. Now, they are seeing him struggle to project any sense of leadership in the crisis. They know the Democratic rank-and-file chose Biden in the primary field, but not necessarily with any great enthusiasm.
In a new Washington Post-ABC poll, 86 percent of the people who say they plan to vote for President Trump say they are enthusiastic about doing so. Just 74 percent of Biden supporters say the same thing. The poll also found that 15 percent of those Democrats who currently prefer Sanders would vote for Trump, not Biden, in the general election.
“They’re a fractured party,” one Trump campaign official said in a text exchange Sunday. “Cuomo coming in as the ‘savior’ would be viewed with hostility by the Bernie people. Double slap in the face.”
Cuomo, who won a third term as governor in 2018, had his chance to run for president. He chose not to. He has a style and personality — largely unseen in the virus coverage — that can be difficult, to say the least. Last year, his job approval rating among New Yorkers fell into the 30s. There is no guarantee, or even indication, that he would wear well on American voters.
In a recent New York Times interview, Cuomo said he is not interested in running for president. “No. I know presidential politics,” he told the paper. “I’m at peace with who I am and what I’m doing.”
Perhaps Cuomo, who is 62, will reconsider and choose to run in 2024. But for now, as long as Joe Biden remains able to run, Democrats seem to be on an unalterable path to nominating him.
Some are doing so with extraordinarily low expectations — recently The Atlantic published an article headlined “Stay Alive, Joe Biden” that argued, “Democrats need little from the front-runner beyond his corporeal presence.” But in any event, Biden is their man, no matter how much they might wish for a savior named Andrew Cuomo.
Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.