Cuomo losing Teflon image
Thus far, the Moreland Commission scandal doesn’t appear to be hurting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election chances.
A poll released earlier this week by Marist College found 54 percent of registered voters support Cuomo’s re-election, down from 59 percent a month earlier, while only 23 percent back Republican challenger Rob Astorino.
Yet the poll also points to growing discontent.
Since November, the percentage of voters who think Cuomo is doing a good or excellent job has fallen from 52 percent to 42 percent, while 52 percent of the electorate believe the governor’s staff did something unethical by involving themselves in the work of the Moreland Commission. While 53 percent of registered voters have a favorable impression of Cuomo, that’s down five percentage points from last month.
It’s early, and these figures could change. Perhaps new revelations will cause more voters to re-evaluate their feelings for Cuomo. Or maybe the scandal will fade away by Election Day.
Whatever happens, the polling data is revealing. It tells us most voters disapprove of Cuomo’s meddling with the Moreland Commission, but plan to vote for him in November anyway.
After all, voters must consider myriad factors when selecting a candidate, and the poll found only 23 percent see the Moreland controversy as a major factor in determining their vote. The governor’s behavior might trouble them, but not enough to change their ballot come Election Day.
Seventy-one percent of voters described the controversy as a minor factor in deciding their vote, or no factor at all. This isn’t particularly surprising.
Most people don’t pay very much attention to politics. They simply aren’t that interested, and they tend to vote for candidates they’re familiar with. Unfortunately for Astorino and Cuomo’s Democratic primary challenger, Zephyr Teachout, the majority of voters don’t know anything about them.
One possibility is New Yorkers are weary of scandal and growing increasingly adept at tuning out reports of malfeasance at the state Capitol. Voters might believe the governor and his staff behaved unethically, but only 11 percent believe they did something illegal. Unless Cuomo is served with a federal indictment, voters will likely chalk the Moreland scandal up to the culture of corruption in Albany and move on.
That’s too bad, because the Moreland scandal is a real scandal — something that is genuinely troubling and should prompt a widespread reappraisal of whether Cuomo should be returned to the governor’s office. Interfering with the work of the Moreland Commission, as he has been accused of doing, is bad enough. Remember, when this commission was established, Cuomo said it would be completely independent — free to investigate whomever or whatever it wanted.
But what caused the scandal to go from bad to worse was a letter U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara sent to Cuomo last week, warning him he could be investigated for obstruction of justice. This warning was made shortly after members of the Moreland Commission issued statements defending Cuomo and denying the governor ever interfered in their work. Almost immediately, the New York Times reported some of those statements were prompted by calls from Cuomo or his staff.
“One commissioner who received a call from an intermediary on behalf of the governor’s office said he found the call upsetting and declined to make a statement,” the newspaper reported.
It remains to be seen whether Cuomo and his people did anything illegal. Presumably, that’s something Bharara will tells us, once his investigation is complete.
But even if no laws were broken, voters should be bothered by what has been revealed about how Cuomo runs the state. His attempt to micromanage and control an ethics commission, after assuring the public the commission was independent, is disturbing. Even more disturbing was how he allegedly reacted — by coordinating a show of support from Moreland Commission members.
At this point, it’s become something of a cliche to point to this sort of behavior and call it Nixonian. But that’s exactly what it is.