By Fredric U. Dicker April 14th, 2014
After his worst week in office since becoming governor, Andrew Cuomo is now viewed for the first time by important Democrats as potentially vulnerable to Republican challenger Rob Astorino, The Post has learned.
The changing sentiment results from the extraordinary criticisms Cuomo received last week from corruption-fighting Southern District US Attorney Preet Bharara — because of the governor’s summary dismissal of his anti-corruption Moreland Commission panel — and from an assortment of “good-government’’ over his transparently phony plan for a severely limited system of publicly financed elections.
“It was a disastrous week for Andrew. He was being attacked all over town, and it appeared to be the culmination of not just weeks, but months, of eroding support for the governor from within his own Democratic base,’’ one of the state’s most influential Democrats told The Post.
“People are starting to say, ‘Hey, maybe Astorino has a chance in the race, even if it is a long shot,’ and a lot of people, Democrats, are starting to also say that wouldn’t be such a bad thing,’’ he continued.
Several Democratic strategists said Cuomo’s eroding support among politically powerful New York City-based unions, including those behind the influential Working Families Party, all but assures an unusually low turnout among the city’s heavily Democratic voters, normally the foundation for a statewide Democratic victory.
At the same time, they expect Astorino, the popular and recently re-elected Westchester County executive, to do well, offsetting Democratic votes in his large suburban county, and his message of property-tax and spending cuts, educational reforms and economic development to appeal to suburban voters on Long Island as well.
“The traditional dynamics for Cuomo appear to be changing, with a big New York City vote no longer guaranteed and a bigger problem in the suburbs, because of Astorino, than [the governor] had expected,’’ said a prominent campaign consultant.
Cuomo, meanwhile, held a tense, hush-hush, meeting with Working Families Party leaders Dan Cantor and Bob Masters at his campaign headquarters in Manhattan last Thursday in an effort to head off the growing possibility that the WFP will field its own candidate for governor in November.
A source said Cuomo was told what he already knew: While the union-controlled WFP’s leadership would like to “do’’ Cuomo as the party’s nominee, widespread unhappiness with Cuomo’s support for business-tax cuts, spending restraints and a fatally flawed publicly financed campaign system is making that difficult.
Many Democrats see the influence of the state’s senior US senator and a longtime Cuomo nemesis, fellow Democrat Charles Schumer, behind Bharara’s stunning criticism of the governor over his handling of the Moreland Commission panel.
Bharara, once Schumer’s chief counsel, is widely believed to have political ambitions, including, possibly running, for the office Schumer himself once planned to seek: governor of New York.
“Preet thinks of himself as a Democratic Rudy Giuliani, a crime- and corruption-fighter who can parley the US attorney’s job into elective office,’’ said a longtime political consultant with ties to Bharara’s office.
“To the extent that the bloom is off the rose when it comes to Cuomo, that may open the door for Preet to run for his job sometime down the road,’’ the consultant continued.