The scene is the office of a well-known CEO as some conservative Republicans implore him to run for governor. They tell him he is the only one capable of beating Andrew Cuomo. They say he represents the views of a hard-pressed upstate region. And they emphasize he can snare the all-important backing of the Conservative Party.
The scene is becoming more and more familiar in New York State politics. It’s exactly how Carl Paladino’s run for governor began in 2010, and it’s exactly what took place in Donald Trump’s office on Wednesday.
In 2010, conservative supporters pitched Paladino in his cluttered Ellicott Square lair, featuring a cameo appearance by his dog Duke. On Wednesday, 12 Republicans, including Assemblyman David DiPietro and political consultant Michael Caputo (both from East Aurora), laid out their case for Trump to run in his opulent Fifth Avenue headquarters. Daughter Ivanka provided this cameo appearance.
“It’s a great office,” DiPietro said. “Total Trump.”
The latest effort involving one of the nation’s best-known businessmen, however, still circles back to Paladino. That’s because the Buffalo real estate developer is threatening to repeat his 2010 candidacy next year – this time on the Conservative line –if the GOP fails to field a well-known, well-financed and conservative Republican.
Hmm, maybe somebody like Donald Trump.
It’s the kind of opponent for Cuomo that just might prompt Paladino to back off.
“He’d be an excellent candidate,” Paladino said late last week. “He brings a certain confidence and he would be excellent on fiscal issues. This is encouraging.”
Indeed, a Trump candidacy would start from a stronger vantage point than just about any other Republican. Few New Yorkers are unfamiliar with “The Donald.”
But the latest Marist College poll also shows Cuomo trouncing Trump by a 70 percent to 24 percent tally. Despite the exhortations of DiPietro, Caputo, Assemblyman Bill Nojay of suburban Rochester and others, many statewide observers feel a Trump candidacy is still unlikely – despite his promise to mull over the idea during the upcoming holidays.
“I just don’t see Trump doing it,” said Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph Lorigo. “I’ve seen what Trump has done in the past, and the man certainly knows how to raise his image. With him, everything is about branding, and this is about branding.”
Lorigo has a stake in this discussion, because he has emerged as a major champion of Paladino running on the Conservative line next year. Should the GOP grab some poor slob from the reject line as it did in 1990 with the infamous Pierre Rinfret, it’s possible the Conservatives could establish themselves on Row B as the state’s other major party.
After all, Conservative Herb London came within about 30,000 votes of pulling off that feat against the hapless Rinfret.
So if Lorigo is right and Trump returns to his Fifth Avenue office, the spotlight could once again swing around to Paladino. Other Republicans, such as Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and Assemblyman Steven McLaughlin of suburban Troy are out there, but have a long way to go to establish Trumplike name recognition.
Still, Paladino will demand a hefty price for his support and – in turn – backing off from turning the state’s political establishment upside down. Even Trump, he said, should disown the state’s GOP hierarchy by heeding his demand for the removal of Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb.
“This guy just can’t be the leader of the Republican Party,” Paladino said, adding he views Kolb the same way.
So after The Donald puts away the socks he received for Christmas and gets on with life in the new year, some basic decisions will be made. Trump could very well surprise everyone and jump into the fray.
Even if he does, watch for Paladino to have his say.
“Carl has the willingness to do it,” Lorigo said last week. “Every day he steps into this a little further.”