A group of Republican state legislators and political strategists urged Donald Trump to run for governor next year during a meeting Wednesday in his Manhattan office and – at the very least – never heard the fateful phrase “You’re fired.”
In fact, after a more than two-hour meeting that included Republican Assemblyman David J. DiPietro of East Aurora, the celebrity real estate developer said he would think about the idea over the holidays and meet again with his new supporters.
“I got the impression he had moved into the ‘maybe’ column,” said Michael R. Caputo, the East Aurora political consultant who arranged the meeting. “We got an invitation to return, and he did not sound like a man in the ‘no’ column.”
DiPietro and Assemblyman Bill Nojay of suburban Rochester led the group’s discussion with three other freshman Republican legislators, said Caputo, laying out a case for Trump to capitalize on his fame and fortune to defeat Democratic incumbent Andrew M. Cuomo in 2014. DiPietro described the effort as a “passionate pitch” that was originally slated to last only 45 minutes.
“Put it this way: It was a Hail Mary pass, and I think it’s under review,” he said.
Nojay originally floated the notion of a Trump candidacy in 2014 several weeks ago, with Trump seeming to have dismissed it. But with Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino now exploring a Republican candidacy, and with Buffalo’s Carl P. Paladino threatening to reprise his 2010 Republican candidacy on the Conservative line should the GOP field a candidate he considers noncompetitive, Nojay and DiPietro are seeking to revive the Trump talk.
“It’s not that we don’t like Astorino or Carl; it’s just that the Republicans need to cast a wide net,” Caputo said.
Caputo, who served as Paladino’s spokesman in the 2010 campaign, said the fact that Trump even accepted the group’s request to talk about running is significant.
“Everyone hopes he will change his mind because he’s the only one with a clear path to win,” Caputo said. “Basically, no Republican – actually, no human – out there has what Donald Trump has.”
Caputo said the group presented Trump – who in 2012 toyed with the idea of running for president – with a detailed strategy and financial plan. He said he believes that Trump gains instant credibility from name recognition alone.
“Donald Trump comes to the table with numbers already,” Caputo said, “and he will have better numbers in upstate New York than anyone.”
An outline of the plan obtained by The Buffalo News makes the case that Trump can win enough votes even in overwhelmingly Democratic New York City to pose a strong challenge to Cuomo.
“Trump is in a unique political place in New York politics,” the memo says. “He has a New York City base and extraordinarily high New York City name identification, but will pull strong upstate assuming the campaign’s messaging focuses on the core issues. A key positive for Trump is the public perception that he does not pander to special interests, and will deliver on promises.”
Nojay, meanwhile, said the meeting included Trump, 12 New York Republicans; Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s executive vice president and special counsel; and a brief appearance by Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.
“It was a very free-wheeling discussion,” Nojay said. “There were no conclusions reached. We never said, ‘Will you run?’ and he never told us. That was not what the meeting was about.”
Instead, Nojay said, they talked about internal New York politics, the state of the economy and Cuomo’s poll troubles with upstate voters.
“He told me some things about New York State politics I didn’t know. He’s a very well-informed guy,” Nojay said. “It was a broad discussion of where New York State is and what kind of leadership is needed to turn the tide.”
Cohen, the Trump executive, seemed to echo the impression that his boss listened while making no promises.
“We had a very interesting meeting, and Mr. Trump has agreed to meet them again at a later date,” Cohen said.
Some political insiders Wednesday were viewing the group’s effort as a way to block Paladino, who has issued increasingly stronger hints in recent weeks that he will run on the Conservative line if the GOP nominates someone with no name recognition, money or commitment to conservative principles. The group believes that Trump would fulfill all those criteria.
GOP legislators attending the meeting included State Sen. Kathleen A. Marchione of Saratoga County, Assemblyman Joseph C. Borelli of Staten Island and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis of Brooklyn.
Wednesday’s meeting followed a major fundraising event Tuesday evening by the Cuomo campaign that was expected to significantly add to the governor’s $28 million campaign treasury.