Cuomo at a Crossroads: What Comes Next?

It was the office of Letitia James, the state’s attorney general, whose politics are significantly to the left of Cuomo’s, that outlined the discrepancies. What is the status of Cuomo’s relationship with James, and is this just one example of a broader power struggle?

Hard to tell, but knowing the governor’s general us-versus-them approach to government, I would suspect that James won’t be invited to brunch at the mansion anytime soon. The force of her report was profound: causing the first big release of new, higher numbers, which in turn undercut the governor’s oft-repeated argument that the state’s nursing homes were doing better than most others’.

The surprising strength of James’s condemnation of the governor was particularly striking because the governor backed her and helped her first get elected in 2018. I’d be shocked if Cuomo was as supportive in 2022, when she’s up for re-election.

This scandal has earned Cuomo criticism from many members of his own party, particularly those on the left. What is this exposing about the loyalty that the savvy and cutthroat governor does, and doesn’t, enjoy from fellow Democrats in New York when push comes to shove?

The schism — between center and left — that has been percolating nationally in the Democratic Party is at a full boil in New York. The governor is not liked by many progressives in the state, who view him as an inveterate centrist who sometimes plays a progressive for the cameras. Cuomo rejects this, once even saying, “I am the left.” But that hasn’t convinced groups like the left-wing Working Families Party, which continues to wage war on Cuomo, including supporting his primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, in 2018.

Which brings us to next year, when the governor will be up for a fourth term: He will, almost certainly, face a primary from that wing of the party. And this nursing home issue — his lack of transparency, his tendency toward heavy-handed, heavy-hitting governance — plays right into the progressive argument that Democrats need someone new in the State Capitol.

Just a few months ago, many observers were calling Cuomo a kind of heroic leader in the pandemic, framing him as a kind of foil to President Donald Trump. There were even murmurings of a possible position in Joe Biden’s cabinet. What lasting damage do you think the current scandal might do to his reputation?

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