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The 2014 Campaign

November 3, 2014

Throughout this campaign, both Cuomo and Astorino acted in ways that were surprisingly and stubbornly self-centered.

It was as if Cuomo thought that everyone should simply agree that he’d done a good job over the last four years. That’s true, but Cuomo knows it doesn’t work like that. He knows that every politician has to almost abase himself each election. That’s the way of it, and failing to act the part angers people. But again and again, it seemed like the election was just a big nuisance for him. You saw it in his failure to campaign in a meaningful way and his contemptuous posture toward the WFP, public sector unions, NYSUT, the Senate Dems and, most of all, the media.

That Cuomo did this is especially surprising because he also knows there are pervasive negative forces at work this year. Call it Obama fatigue or whatever, the reality is that every Democratic governor elected in 2010 is in trouble. Throughout the cycle, it looked like Cuomo might be immune to these forces, but it’s apparent that it will indeed affect his margin. And yet, even now, he acts as if he just doesn’t care. The conduct is all the more strange given the additional obvious drag caused by Moreland. That alone should have encouraged him to put more effort into the campaign.

Astorino, meanwhile, came off as a guy who is absolutely convinced of his own star appeal. The whole campaign was images of him and his family. Yes, he cuts a decent figure. Yes, his wife and kids are appealing. But he overdid it. He packaged and pushed it, and it began to have a Ron Burgundy feel. The only thing missing was Bill Kurtis’ narration for his ads: “Rob has a voice that can make a wolverine purr, and his suits make Sinatra look like a hobo.”

There were other major disconnects for Astorino.  He didn’t understand the degree to which Cuomo’s negative ads defined and undercut him. He thought people would see through it, but they didn’t. When they saw him cackling in the soup-is-good ad, most people didn’t think: “What a good-looking fella with charisma!” Instead, they thought: “What a jerk!”

Hysterically, some of Astorino’s supporters actually thought the soup ad was produced by his campaign. They thought “soup is good” was the tagline for his campaign.  This speaks volumes of Astorino’s core group of supporters – the people who think that everyone else is on the dole and they have to pay for it.

It was only toward the very end that Astorino began to understand the degree to which he has been caricatured, and he couldn’t handle it. All he could do was have his wife and kids complain about it in Youtube videos. “How dare you, governor!”

The other disconnect for Astorino was thinking that positions don’t matter.  Someone needed to tell him that this is New York. You can’t win without having, at a minimum, at least moderate views on choice and gay rights, and also being extremely sensitive to race.

In the end, neither man ran a good campaign. Neither man was able to see how he was actually being perceived by others. And apparently, neither man had staff members willing or able to tell their man the truth.

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