A big get for the previously embattled New York GOP, but perhaps only a dream matchup. Rep. Lee Zeldin tossed his hat into the 2022 gubernatorial ring on Fox & Friends this morning, saying “Andrew Cuomo’s gotta go,” which seems to be the growing consensus in the Empire State.
But what if Cuomo is already gone?
Saying that “to save New York, Andrew Cuomo’s gotta go,” Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin on Thursday morning declared his candidacy for governor of the Empire State.
Zeldin becomes the first Republican to launch a challenge against New York’s embattled three-term Democratic governor, who faces allegations of sexual harassment from 10 female accusers, which has triggered an independent investigation by the state attorney general and an impeachment investigation in the State Assembly. Cuomo’s also facing a federal probe into the state’s handling of COVID deaths at nursing homes amid the coronavirus pandemic. …
“The New York that was once a magnet for the world’s best and brightest is now forcing its own to leave under the crushing weight of skyrocketing taxes, lost jobs, suffocating regulations, and rising crime resulting from dangerously liberal policies,” Zeldin charged. “At the helm of New York’s downfall is Governor Andrew Cuomo.”
He accused Cuomo of producing “a long line of scandals, lies, abuse and harassment. Cuomo has abused the power and trust granted to him and it is time for him to immediately exit stage left.”
Therein lies the problem for Zeldin and the NYGOP. It should be easy to run against Cuomo in 17 months, given the amount of scandals and the body count in one of them. It’s going to be so easy for Republicans to run against Cuomo, in fact, that’s it’s almost inconceivable that Democrats will nominate him for a fourth term, and even unlikely that Cuomo will choose to try for another term. At the moment, Cuomo’s focused on not getting tossed out of office before the next election, not planning a serious campaign.
If Cuomo sticks around to the end of his term, he might damage the Democratic Party enough to give a serious Republican a shot in the gubernatorial race. The escalating scandals will make that nearly impossible, however. At some point, Democrats will realize the risk they’re running and move forward on impeachment. If they do that relatively soon, lieutenant governor Kathy Hochul will have an opportunity to spend a year or more to clean up the mess and right the Democrats’ ship. A year of relatively calm governance by the state’s first female governor will put the blue-state electorate much closer to their normal instincts.
Zeldin’s smart enough to know this. So why give up a seat in Congress to tilt at this particular windmill? It might be Zeldin’s way of forcing Cuomo’s hand, and that of the New York Democratic Party too. Or it might be that Zeldin’s not risking much at all:
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) April 8, 2021
Redistricting gives Democrats an opportunity to go after Zeldin, and it’s a good chance they’ll succeed at it. Why not take a shot at the brass ring while Zeldin’s profile remains high? It’s a smart move, and if nothing else, it guarantees Zeldin plenty of press over the next 17 months. That’s plenty of time to build a post-electoral-politics media career, and also plenty of time for Zeldin to become a valuable surrogate for whomever seeks and wins the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.