Progressive

No, Democrats Won’t Do a Switcheroo To Dump Biden For Cuomo

Biden and Cuomo are hardly interchangeable men.
Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Epochal events like the coronavirus pandemic can change an awful lot of things in politics, as in other areas of life. Some pols lucky (or unlucky) enough to be in the spotlight are going to get a lot more public exposure than you could buy with a billion dollars worth of ads; some will do very well with all that exposure, while others may not. One who has done conspicuously well is suddenly appearing in prediction markets for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination:

And that has led a few conspiracy theorists (mostly conservatives, who figure anything negative about the presumptive presidential nominee of the opposition party is fun and profitable) to speculate about Andrew Cuomo somehow supplanting Biden. Here’s the National Review’s John Fund:

Some Democrats are openly talking up New York governor Andrew Cuomo, whose profile has soared during the crisis, as a Biden stand-in. Yesterday, a Draft Cuomo 2020 account on Twitter announced that “Times have changed & we need Gov. Cuomo to be the nominee. Our next POTUS must be one w/an ability to lead thru this crisis…”

Democrats are increasingly worried that Joe Biden will have trouble being relevant and compelling in the long four months between now and when he is nominated in July. Lloyd Constantine, who was a senior policy adviser to New York governor Eliot Spitzer from 2007 to 2008, puts it bluntly: “Biden is a melting ice cube. Those of us who have closely watched as time ravaged the once sharp or even brilliant minds of loved ones and colleagues, recognize what is happening to the good soldier Joe.”

Fund’s colleague Michael Brendan Dougherty says it “feels like [a] switcheroo is coming.”

For this extreme long shot to take shape, of course, it will require a lot of Democrats to begin taking it seriously. And the obvious problem is that the Democrats most disgruntled with Biden generally are the progressives who tend to loathe Cuomo as well (as do others with personal rather than ideological beefs with the governor and his abrasive style). Fund cites veteran columnist Charlie Pierce as evidence of a potential change of heart on the left concerning the saturnine New York governor:

For years, Cuomo has looked like everything that was wrong with the Democratic party. He leaned toward the money power and he arranged the New York legislature in a way that empowered Republicans against the more progressive elements of his own party. It made any plans he had for running for president dead on arrival every four years. But over the past months, and especially in his press conferences, Cuomo has demonstrated a knack for the kind of leadership that rallies people rather than frightens them, and that has not relied upon the fouler elements of American politics to get the job done. He has become someone upon whom everyone can rely.

But there’s a long road between a politician achieving fresh appreciation from past detractors and toppling a near-nominee and uniting his party in the bloody aftermath of a coup. And that’s probably why Fund’s fantasy ultimately relies on such distant precedents as the carefully primed galleries that stampeded the 1940 Republican National Convention for Wall Street and media favorite Wendell Willkie.

Emily Zanotti, another conservative fantasist, seems to think that postponed primaries will give Cuomo a path to the nomination:

Cuomo may be able to fill a hole for needy Democrats who are concerned that neither of the two frontrunners, Sanders and Biden, are within striking distance of winning a majority of delegates and the Democratic nomination outright, particularly if states postpone or cancel upcoming primaries.

Anything’s possible, I suppose, but no states have actually canceled primaries, and if Biden does well on June 2 (which is becoming sort of a second Super Tuesday), he’ll likely clinch the nomination then. The idea that a candidate out of nowhere will plan and create a campaign, get it on the requisite number of state ballots, topple a front-runner who has been perennially invulnerable to the kind of carping Biden is arousing right now, and then win over a contested convention is all the stuff of non-scientific fiction.

Cuomo’s combination of skill, experience, intense ambition, and infamously high self-regard make him impossible to write off permanently. At 62, he has multiple presidential cycles to exploit before he’s as old as Biden or Sanders. But he won’t grab the brass ring via some “switcheroo.” Barring something bizarre happening, Biden will be the nominee, and if there is some party-wide panic between now and November, Democrats are more likely to turn to someone whose upside comes with no real downside.

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