If you've passed anywhere near a television recently, you can't help but notice that ad featuring the bear hug between Republican State Sen. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
We're talking warm and fuzzy here – a “beautiful moment” conveyed through the magic of television.
But the Cuomo spot also underscores a grand strategy that links the popular governor to a key senator scratching and clawing his way through a tough race in an overwhelmingly Democratic district. Grisanti has hitched his wagon to the Cuomo star, and most say the Democratic governor is returning as many favors as possible.
Now the strategy has reached a whole new level. Not only is Grisanti touting his relationship with Cuomo, but so is the New York State Republican Party. Mailings arrived at 60th District homes over the past few days with lots of photos of “Mark and Andrew.” The effort to link them together could not be more clear.
“Two years ago, we elected Mark Grisanti and Andrew Cuomo,” the mailing says, as if the GOP were taking credit for Cuomo, too. “They started working together. And things started to change.”
“We need to keep Mark Grisanti in the State Senate, working with Governor Cuomo to continue creating jobs for us,” it concludes.
It's one thing for Grisanti to team up with Democrat Cuomo, but it becomes significant political news when the message is mailed out of state Republican Headquarters in Albany. To Chairman Ed Cox, touting Grisanti's role in passing the UB 2020 plan – albeit a watered-down version – is the right thing to do.
“Mark had a lot to do with it and Andrew Cuomo had a lot to do with it,” Cox said. “This is about getting things done.”
It's a unique – and risky – path for the state GOP. Two years from now, the party will presumably challenge Cuomo for governor, even if not a soul is remotely expressing interest in 2012. But it is more than conceivable that the Cuomo forces will resurrect the Grisanti mailing in 2014 to remind voters of the GOP's praise for the Democratic governor.
Cox is unfazed. “We're giving credit where credit is due,” he said. “And where it's not, we'll make it absolutely clear where it's failed. You've got to work on a bipartisan basis once you are in government.”
Cuomo, meanwhile, is riding high in the polls as he approaches the midpoint of his term. Still, the top names in statewide Republican circles just don't enter the mix when political gab turns to 2014. So the possibility of a GOP cross-endorsement of Cuomo naturally ensues amid all the talk of bipartisanship. The chairman quickly nixes that kind of talk.
“We're going to have a very strong candidate who will make the case,” Cox said of 2014, noting that circumstances often change in New York politics.
Not all Republicans like the state party approach. One Buffalo GOP type points out that, right now, it's all about maintaining the slim Senate majority – the last bastion of GOP power in New York. And Grisanti looms as a key figure in that effort.
But the Republican also asks what happens when the GOP and Democrats inevitably transcend their current warm and fuzzy phase.
“We're going to have an identity crisis at some point,” he said.
Cuomo, too, has carved out a reputation for working with the opposition, even though he occasionally exposes his partisan soul in opportunities like last month's stemwinder before the New York delegation at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
There he castigated Republican claims that cutting taxes for the rich will “unleash the American entrepreneurial spirit.”
“That great mystic spirit will come out,” he mocked. “The American spirit has a special wand and he will wave the wand. And everything will be OK.
“No,” he added. “When you cut taxes on the rich, there is no spirit that appears. The rich people get more money.”
Sometimes warm and fuzzy works, sometimes it doesn't. It's all part of politics in New York.