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The Cuomo Moves

May 21, 2010

He’s finally in the game. And, for the most part, the things he’s talking about are the right things. There’s also evidence of real strategizing on his part in the unveiling of his positions. In this regard, he announced his support for a property tax cap to Newsday on Long Island, where the issue is paramount. He weighed in on charter schools to the New York Post, which is crusading for education reform. And he outlined the core of his economic development policy to the Buffalo News, which is the region most in need.  The substance of these three proposals is as well-conceived as the rollout, and we commend Cuomo and his team. 

But we wish they stopped right there… 

The other aspect of his pre-convention media strategy is troubling and we are concerned for him. We’re talking about the “in your face” stuff with the lawmakers and unions. Yes, a thousand times, yes — he must be strong with them. But we can’t help thinking that the timing for shots across the bow is wrong. Moreover, we wish he’d be a little more subtle about it. Here’s why:

 Cuomo has skipped entirely the traditional process of a campaign where you make the case for yourself and humbly ask for the support of the party and the people. Instead, he’s acting as though it’s a foregone conclusion that he’s the next governor. This is most likely true, but it sure does smack of hubris. And there could be a backlash to it. 

In addition, there’s the extraordinary message in today’s Daily News and Wall Street Journal articles: “Get in line with me … or else!” 

This is a threat on its face. And the Journal article doesn’t stop there. It goes on to suggest that Cuomo will back up his threats with hardball tactics not seen before. Given the still fresh context of Spitzer, is this really the right approach? Again, we want strength in the next governor, but it is also the time for some subtlety and style, too.   

Having said that, the worst thing Cuomo could do now is try to dial it all back. That would make him look vacillating and incompetent like David Paterson.

Cuomo came on too strong here, but he must not back away from it. Instead,  he should be reminding people again and again that it’s not about him. And it’s not personal. It’s about turning the state around. And everyone can be a partner in the effort.

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