Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019 | 2 a.m.
In the debates and on the trail, Joe Biden looks beatable. Even worse, he often seems confused and feeble. Too old, perhaps.
You have to wonder what Andrew Cuomo thinks. What goes through the governor’s mind as Biden responds to a debate question about racial inequality with a confounding answer that suggests parents who “don’t know quite what to do” should turn to record players?
Here’s what he probably thinks: “Uh oh. This isn’t good.”
Cuomo has all-but-endorsed Biden, calling the former vice president the candidate “who can get things done.” If we’re to believe the reports, Cuomo didn’t run for president out of deference to Biden, and he’s even likely to become Biden’s White House chief of staff — assuming Biden wins, of course.
It all makes plausible sense, because Cuomo and Biden have so much in common. In the modern Democratic Party, both men are moderates, which means they are also despised by the most progressive progressives and the activists on Twitter.
But it also means they represent the great bulk of Democratic voters, the people who are too busy working or raising their families to care about what Twitter says.
That’s why Biden still leads in the polls, especially among black voters, despite his increasingly obvious weaknesses. That’s why many Democrats still see him as their best chance to win back the White House.
The other leading Democrats in the race — Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders especially — are well to the left of the electorate. Unlike Cuomo and Biden, they have almost no actual governing experience and can point to few accomplishments. They have grand ideas and plans but, if elected, would struggle mightily to get anything done.
“I know how to do what everybody’s talking about doing,” Cuomo said in a March story published by The Atlantic. “They’re all talking about how to fly an airplane. None of them have flown. And that’s a big difference when you get in the seat and you buckle the seat belt.”
Now, doesn’t that sound like a man who would love to run for president? Yet, instead of debating the future of the country, Cuomo is in Albany, getting hammered on his plan for new license-plate fees. It’s like he’s flying a Cessna while dreaming of a 747.
Meanwhile, Warren on Monday received the endorsement of the Working Families Party, headquartered in Brooklyn (of course it is) and populated by the most idealistic of progressives. The endorsement enraged Bernie devotees but few voters will notice.
Consider that last year, the party endorsed Cynthia Nixon, the actress and activist, in her gubernatorial primary run against Cuomo. On Twitter, this was seen as a very big deal right up until Cuomo crushed Nixon in the primary. Nixon had woke enthusiasm. The governor had votes.
Warren is a much stronger and smarter candidate than Nixon was, but the dynamic in the presidential primary isn’t much different. Warren gets the Twitter and media attention but doesn’t speak to the great bulk of Democratic voters.
She would lose to a forceful moderate.
Except Biden is no longer a forceful moderate. He doesn’t seem up to the task of running for president, much less representing his party’s middle.
I’ve been intensely critical of Cuomo and how he has governed. I certainly think he has been overly attentive to his donors. Upstate is losing population under his watch, and that is no small thing.
Still, I don’t see how anybody could watch the Democratic debates, with Biden stammering and faltering, and not think that Cuomo would be a force on the stage.
The governor would talk about his three landslide victories in one of the country’s biggest and most important states. He would tell everybody how his governing experience is directly relevant to the presidency. He would talk about how a guy from Queens could best take it to a guy from Queens.
Warren talks about free college, raising the minimum wage and banning fracking for natural gas. But Cuomo has actually enacted versions of those policies — and yet would be savvy enough to realize that proposing a federal ban on fracking, as Warren has, will keep Pennsylvania red and make it that much harder for Democrats to win.
There’s still time for Cuomo to enter the race, but he won’t unless Biden soon quits, which isn’t going to happen. Still, Biden will not be the nominee.
Warren will — and Donald Trump should feel good about that.
Chris Churchill is a columnist for The Albany Times Union.