ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo says Hillary Rodham Clinton's decision whether to run for president in 2016 is having no impact on him because he is not contemplating a White House bid.
The governor, whose poll numbers are not what they once were among New Yorkers, sought to push back against a published report that said he has decided to stand down in the quest to become president if Clinton runs in 2016. Among many Democrats, the notion that Cuomo would challenge Clinton in a Democratic primary is far-fetched, at best, for a host of reasons, not the least of which is Clinton's popularity among Democrats nationally.
“Hillary Clinton is going to do whatever Hillary Clinton is going to do, and I'm doing what I'm doing, and I'm focused on running this state,” Cuomo said in a public radio interview Monday.
Cuomo said a report in the New York Post that he has decided to abandon any hope of running in 2016 if Clinton gets into the race was wrong.
“There is no truth to the assertion that I'm talking presidential politics and strategy and what Hillary Clinton should or shouldn't do or what I'm doing presidentially,” Cuomo told the Capitol Pressroom, a radio show he appears on with increasingly regularity to get his views out without having to face an entire Capitol press corps. He said his energy is on running the state government.
“To the extent I'm talking politics, it's my race next year,” Cuomo said of his 2014 re-election campaign.
For a year or more, Cuomo has not ruled out a 2016 bid, and has done little to quiet the speculation about whether he might run.
The Post, citing unnamed sources, said Cuomo has told people in recent weeks he will step aside if Clinton runs. The story quoted one person saying Cuomo believes “there's not a chance for him to run if Hillary gets in the race because she'll easily wrap up the Democratic nomination.”
Cuomo and the Post article did not definitively say what would happen if Clinton does not run. Clinton, a former U.S. senator from New York who recently left her post as secretary of state in the Obama administration, made a recent high-profile speech that served to fuel speculation that she is trying to clear the field of any potential would-be competitors by signaling her possible interest in a bid.
“No comment,” the normally talkative Sen. Charles E. Schumer, visiting the state Capitol Monday afternoon, said when asked about the situation involving Clinton and Cuomo.
For Cuomo, taking on Clinton would offer plenty of pitfalls. For many Democrats, it would remind them of his failed 2002 primary bid to keep H. Carl McCall from becoming the state's first African-American governor.
Cuomo dropped out of that primary just prior to Election Day but it took years for him to recover within the party, especially among minorities, because he was seen as having financially and politically wounding McCall, who went on to lose the general election to then-Gov. George E. Pataki.
Moreover, Cuomo worked for Clinton's husband, Bill Clinton, as secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Bill Clinton and the governor's father, then-Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, had a turbulent relationship in 1992, which ended with the elder Cuomo badly losing in a write-in effort in the New Hampshire primary against Clinton, who went on to win the party's nomination and the general election that year.
“Common sense tells you they both can't run and if she runs, it would not make sense for him to run,” said Kathleen Sullivan, a former New Hampshire Democratic Party chairwoman who co-chaired Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in that state in 2008. She noted Clinton's high popularity among New Hampshire Democrats, and that Clinton and Cuomo are both from New York and share many of the same donors and consultants.
“In terms of New Hampshire, it would be extremely difficult for anyone to come into this state and defeat Hillary Clinton in either a primary or general election,” added Sullivan, who is currently the state party's committeewoman to the Democratic National Committee.
A recent WMUR Granite State Poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire, found Clinton with an early lead in that state's primary long before anyone has even announced their intentions for the 2016 race. Clinton captured the support of 61 percent of likely Democrats in New Hampshire, with Vice President Biden trailing far behind with 7 percent. Cuomo and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick received 3 percent of support from Democrats, followed by Virginia Sen. Mark Warner with 2 percent.