The rise of Cuomo shows that times of tragedy can make highly unlikely political heroes.
It's not that Cuomo was previously considered a bad manager – it's that he was unpopular.
Cuomo's name was moved as a potential 2020 candidate before the race got underway. His name was asked across a bunch of polls from the state and the nation
. The most frequent percentage Cuomo received in these polls was 0%, and he averaged only 0.4%.
The lack of enthusiasm for Cuomo nationally was compounded by how lukewarm his support was in his home state. When matched against other New York political figures in early 2019, only 17% said that Cuomo would make the best president in a Study from Quinnipiac University
. It was not so far ahead of Sensten Kirsten Gillibrand (11%). It was well behind former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (28%).
Cuomo managed to upset many people in New York. He disturbed the left (following his dealings with state Senate Republicans
), the right one (by supporting a slew
of liberal initiatives) and even pure government (see Moreland Commission
Perhaps not surprisingly, his favorable rankings in New York were close to their lows all the time earlier this year, after serving nine years in office. According to Siena College
, Cuomo's net favorable (favorable-unfavorable) rating was -6 points. Having a net negative favoritism rating as a state Democrat in the blue state of New York is not easy, but he managed to.
Cuomo's reelection performance in 2018 was not what I would categorize as strong. Yes, he won re-election with 23 points
But keep in mind that this is New York State for a very good year for Democrats across the country. His margin was the weakest for any Democrat running in New York statewide. It was more than 10 points weaker than two others
sitting members for re-election.
The 2018 election also marked the second time in a row where he faced a primary challenge from the left. The progressive Working Families Party supported
his rival Cynthia Nixon of "Sex and the City" fame. But Cuomo won that primary by just over 30 points options before the election
indicated that he probably lost among self-identified very liberal Democrats.
Sometimes, traits that make others perceive you as a bad leader in one context, however, can make you be seen as strong in another context. One of the biggest negative adjectives normally prescribed to Cuomo is that he is "Hard-handed".
It is exactly the leadership style that can work very well during a crisis.
In this way, Cuomo can remind some New Yorkers of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani was on his way out as New York City mayor with little future in politics. After 9/11, Giuliani's approval rating jumped 30 points
. Like Cuomo, Giuliani was described as "heavy-handed"
– and found that the behavior suited a crisis.
Giuliani's response to the September 11 attacks made him a hero for many, as Cuomo's actions regarding the coronavirus pandemic have made him one to many. Of course, Giuliani was not ultimately able to transfer that popularity to winning higher office; The 2008 presidential bid floated.
What ultimately happens to Cuomo's political future is anyone's guess. Currently, Cuomo is getting more plaudits than he has in a long time.