Cynthia Nixon has a half-full glass of water sitting on her campaign desk. On the one hand, she wasn’t immediately vaporized by some state cannon after she launched her campaign against Andrew Cuomo six weeks ago. And she has successfully seized on several issues that resonate with Democratic primary voters – almost forcing the governor to look like a tree-hugging, pot-loving progressive who’s shifted to the left.
But putting aside polls that show her trailing the governor by more than 20 points, Nixon still has a credibility gap that she needs to fill if she wants to actually beat Cuomo rather than just scare him into acting like a Bernie Bro.
Cuomo ignored his primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout, four years ago and it was a strategy that largely worked. Although Teachout got 34 percent of the vote, Cuomo swamped her in New York City, particularly in African-American and Latino neighborhoods. While Nixon is smartly trying to make in-roads with blacks and Latinos by campaigning around the city – including the Bronx today – she’s going to need to find a key issue that questions the credibility of Cuomo’s commitment to the city’s working class. With Cuomo’s family name and a long record as someone who started out as a housing advocate, it won’t be easy for a wealthy white actress to convince poor people that she’ll do a better job feeling their pain.
Nixon also has a credibility gap that she needs to fill with the political intelligentsia – from the people who write the editorials for The Buffalo News to the good-government activists in Albany.
Through years of hardball politics and triangulation in the State Capitol, Cuomo has few actual friends – and even some of his “friends” would secretly enjoy seeing him fall. But Nixon has yet to convince some of Cuomo’s skeptics that she has the gravitas to be governor. A stature gap looms and although she’s avoided making a major gaffe, Nixon appeared a little rough around the edges by telling one reporter that upstate starts in Ithaca and telling another that the state has for-profit prisons.
But Cuomo hasn’t exactly exhibited calm in his foxhole, all but muscling local elected officials and advocates to not appear at a Nixon event and making a tasteless joke about how Jews can’t dance while attending a service at a predominantly African-American church. It’s Cuomo, not Nixon, who could be the governor’s worst enemy.
From the upstate economy to the city’s foundering mass-transit system, there are plenty of issues that both candidates will likely tackle between now and the primary in September. The campaign could actually be a very good thing for New York – or a muddy mess. And meanwhile, the state GOP is hoping to pick up the pieces in November.