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Foss: Cuomo's honeymoon is over

Foss: Cuomo's honeymoon is over

Political observers wonder whether Cuomo will now experience what's known as the 'third term curse'
Foss: Cuomo's honeymoon is over
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Photographer: GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

The honeymoon is over. 

Just a few short months ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo appeared revitalized by his commanding victory over Republican opponent Marc Molinaro and the Democratic Party's takeover of the state Senate. 

In his State of the State speech, Cuomo laid out a bold agenda that prioritized passing legislation long stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, and voiced support for a host of items that would have met fierce resistance from the G.O.P. just a year ago, such as the legalization of recreational marijuana. 

Indeed, with his party in charge of state government, Cuomo appeared poised for an extraordinarily productive third term. 

And it has been productive, with the Legislature speedily passing laws that touch upon any number of hot button issues, from abortion to gun control to voting reform. 

But it's also been roiled by failure and conflict, with Cuomo blaming Senate Democrats for Amazon's decision to pull out of New York City. 

After wooing the tech giant so aggressively, the company's retreat is an embarrassment for a governor who prides himself on getting things done.

And it might have lasting consequences. 

In fact, political observers such as myself are wondering whether Cuomo will now experience what's known as the "third term curse," a fate that befalls politicians who have worn out their welcome and are losing their grip on power as a result.  

One sign that rough seas might be ahead: the most recent Siena College poll, which found that the governor's favorability rating had dropped to its lowest level in eight years, and that more than half of New Yorkers view the governor unfavorably for the first time ever. 

It's impossible to know what, exactly, has caused Cuomo's favorability rating to plummet eight points, from 51 percent to 43 percent. 

Some of the dissatisfaction might stem from the state's new laws concerning guns and abortion, but the Siena Poll found that a majority of New Yorkers view these laws as good, though of course there are pockets of people who strongly oppose them. 

Now, favorability ratings rise and fall, and it's possible Cuomo will regain his standing with some of the voters who are currently unhappy with him. 

But it's also possible that Cuomo's drop in favorability is a sign of deeper trouble. 

Prior to the Amazon debacle, New York's single-party rule seemed like something that would help Cuomo more than hurt him -- that would ease the passage of legislation and allow him to grow his list of accomplishments. 

But now it seems just as likely that single-party rule will trip him up, leading to conflict with the more progressive -- and ascendant --wing of the Democratic Party. 

The political writer Ross Barkan writes that the collapse of the Amazon deal signals a new political reality for the governor. 

"Third terms are never easy, as Michael Bloomberg and Mario Cuomo and Ed Koch found out," Barkan says, in a recent essay in the Gothamist. "For executives like Cuomo who so successfully instilled fear in others to drive an agenda, they can be particularly bewildering: Power in politics is often built on illusion: threats are so severe they take on the weight of reality, even if they go unrealized. Machiavelli taught Cuomo the younger well. We will soon find out what happens to a governor who is neither feared nor loved." 

Which should be interesting. 

Cuomo's third term initially seemed like it would be a cakewalk, as he notched up one political victory after another. 

Now it seems like it might be more of a slog, beset by party infighting, the lingering humiliation of losing Amazon and the growing restlessness of a public eager for something new and different. 

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

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