WASHINGTON – Andrew Cuomo committed some early campaign blunders and couldn't reconcile his status as an outsider to New York politics, according to analysts asked to deliver a post-mortem on the former housing secretary's failed gubernatorial bid.
The son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, once regarded by some as a rapidly rising young star in the Democratic Party, announced suddenly on Tuesday that he was pulling out of his primary race with opponent Carl McCall. In announcing his decision, Cuomo said he may have tried to put out too many ideas too fast, and conceded his opponent had conducted a better advertising campaign.
Others said they believe Cuomo never recovered from a mistake made back in April, when he accused Gov. George Pataki of taking too much credit for helping the city of New York recover in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"He should have realized that attacking Pataki over a modest role in the September 11 recovery was not a wise thing to do given the sensitivity of the issue," noted American Enterprise Institute analyst Norm Ornstein.
Even Cuomo's father, Mario, admonished his son's Pataki remarks. But New York Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf said the son's campaign was doomed even earlier.
"He has no rationale for a candidacy," said Sheinkopf. "Campaigns have to have a rationale. They have to have a reason for existing. He never had a plan, he wasn’t clear about what he wanted to do as governor."
Despite Cuomo's seemingly strong ties with the Clinton administration, analysts said his detachment from the New York party elite made him an outsider. And though he tried to play off of that outsider status — most notably by skipping the state Democratic convention — it never really worked in his favor.
"Calling himself an outsider — its not credible when your father had been governor for 12 years," said Sheinkopf.
Cuomo, 44, had served on his father's campaigns before Clinton appointed him HUD secretary. His high-profile position — along with his marriage to Kerry Kennedy, one of Robert F. Kennedy's daughters — instantly made him a big name in party circles.
But that fact alone didn't give him anything special to offer the people of New York, according to Republican strategist Rich Galen.
"He was like a Hollywood star’s kid who can’t act," Galen said on Tuesday. "You give him a first job, but he fails. And you don’t give him another one."
Ornstein suggested Cuomo was also plagued by the race card. McCall is not only black, but ascended from humble beginnings as a child of the welfare system. He enjoyed the strong endorsement of Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., one of the state's most powerful and popular elected officials.
"Allies of Charlie Rangel basically framed this on racial terms," said Ornstein, who credited Cuomo with doing the right thing by abandoning his bid. "If he could win the nomination at such a cost, an uphill effort to defeat Pataki would have been impossible. He would have alienated so many people, especially the black community."
Neither McCall or Cuomo was ever given much of a chance at beating Pataki, who is still enjoying hefty support from New Yorkers for keeping the people and the economy together following the World Trade Center attacks.
"Defeating George Pataki is going to be a difficult task for Democrats, no matter who it is," said Nathan Gonzalez of the Washington, D.C.-based Rothenberg Report.