Friday, December 26, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: The Cheerless Smell at the Democratic Craps Table in Bizarro World

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Melville, N.Y. -- You could get a case of the bends going from last week's State Republican Convention in Westchester last week to this week's Democratic State Convention on Long Island

They're Bizarro World versions of each other, both set in suburban Hilton hotels but the moods couldn't be more different. The GOP gathering was like hanging out at a craps table at 3 a.m. in Las Vegas where everyone is down, a little drunk, and desperately trying to make up for a long day's worth of losses with a single roll.

But on Long Island, everyone is playing it tight, acting super-cautious and secretive, where even obtaining an actual schedule of the day's events is a triumph. From the delegates to the media, attendees are treated as if they're state lawmakers being told to vote on a piece of legislation before they can even look at it.

The gap in the wattage of the conventions' political star power is also quite noticeable with members of Congress and every major statewide official attending the gathering here – with rumors that Bill Clinton is going to speak today. In Westchester, the most senior member at the GOP convention was Senate quasi-Majority leader Dean Skelos.

The one bit of suspense came and went yesterday with the naming of former Rep. Kathy Hochul as Gov. Cuomo's new running mate, who was only asked yesterday by the governor to join his ticket. The selection was treated as a state secret.

Another last-minute move by Cuomo was naming his immediate predecessor, David Paterson, to run the State Democratic Party. The irony of the move was not lost on attendees because it's widely believed that Cuomo, as state Attorney General, undermined Paterson's stormy tenure as governor when he launched an ethics probe of the administration.

"Give me two seconds, I'm back in trouble,'' Paterson semi-joked to the delegates during his speech.

The other Bizarro-world is New York State itself where depending on which convention you're attending, we're either hemorrhaging jobs and residents in a tax-heavy, anti-fracking environment overseen by Tammany-bred political hacks or a glowing American success story where we're undergoing an economic renaissance led by a dynamic governor.

Either way, both conventions have had the spontaneity of a canned laugh track. The only moment of discord among the Democrats came yesterday when former State Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs spoke out against the controversial Independence Party – but then withdrew his motion calling on the governor not to run on the ballot line. It was as if he were protesting in Tiananmen Square and then rolled the tank over himself.

Regardless of the kabuki-theater nature of all of this, it will be interesting to hear Cuomo deliver a major political address. One of his best speeches was to New York's delegates at the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina in 2012 where he ripped into the GOP with a toughness and vigor that was reminiscent of his father. Standing in front of a banner that read "Progressive Capital of the Nation", Cuomo tore into the Republican economic agenda and spoke out repeatedly for President Obama and "the working families and the middle class."

So before he jumps into a helicopter to meet Obama in Cooperstown this aftertoon, Cuomo has a chance to remember that it's ok not to be all things to all people and that he has an agenda that not everyone will agree with. A careful Rose Garden strategy won't be helpful to New York or its voters. Let's hope for a real debate between now and Election Day whichever Bizarro World we're dwelling in.

Bob Hardt

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