* Unlike other star governors, Cuomo skips podium speech
* New York governor is among Democrats' most popular leaders
* After father's public flirtations, Cuomo keeps mum on
By Samuel P. Jacobs
CHARLOTTE, N.C., Sept 4 Say you're a Democratic
governor, judged to have presidential ambitions once Barack
Obama exits the stage. Where would you spend the day before your
party's national convention in Charlotte?
Courting the delegates and donors starting to pour into
town? Doing the rounds of morning television news shows? Hitting
the evening party circuit?
None of the above for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who on
Monday chose to stay 600 miles (960 km) away in the New York
City neighborhood of Crown Heights, marching along with
celebrants in a West Indian parade.
Cuomo's absence contrasts with the high profiles of other
rising stars such as Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. A
regular on the Sunday talk shows and a proud brawler for Obama,
O'Malley headed to downtown Charlotte intending to strap on a
guitar and perform with actor Jeff Bridges. (The gig was rained
As the Democratic Party uses its convention to nominate
Obama for president and make the case for his re-election, it
also will use the stage to shine a light on its next generation
of leaders. While O'Malley is proving ubiquitous in Charlotte -
even bringing his band along with him - Cuomo will be a blur,
visiting for one day and avoiding the type of star-making
convention speech that made his father, Mario Cuomo, then
governor of New York, a national figure 28 years ago.
By staying out of the spotlight in Charlotte, Andrew Cuomo
can avoid any criticism that he would be trying to upstage the
Democrats' campaign in 2012 to further his own ambitions.
It's a routine that Cuomo has perfected since winning the
governor's seat two years ago.
Besides attending an occasional out-of-state fundraiser,
Cuomo rarely has crossed state lines, saying that his sole focus
is overseeing the nation's third-largest state and third-biggest
economy at a time when New York's unemployment rate - 9.1
percent in July - is above the national average of 8.3 percent.
When asked about his plans recently, Cuomo told reporters:
"I will go to the convention and pay my respects to Mr. Obama.
I'll do what I can to help re-elect President Obama. ... But my
job is being governor of the state of New York, and that's a job
that's done in the state of New York."
Many political analysts in New York see Cuomo's reluctance
to be seen anywhere outside the state as an affirmation of his
national ambition, rather than a sign that he lacks it.
Cuomo need only look to his neighbor, New Jersey Governor
Chris Christie, for a lesson in the potential pitfalls of being
an outsized presence at a convention dedicated to electing
After his keynote address in Tampa, Florida, last week at
the convention where Republicans nominated Mitt Romney for
president, Christie was criticized because his speech focused
heavily on his own exploits in New Jersey - where the
unemployment rate was 9.8 percent in July.
"Chris Christie came off like a wise guy," New York
Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf said. "Andrew Cuomo is
acting like a smart guy."
PRESERVING HIS POPULARITY
With an approval rating in New York that crested above 70
percent this spring, Cuomo is among the most popular leaders in
the Democratic Party. While he safeguards that reputation, Cuomo
is depriving the Obama campaign of a surrogate whose record and
background could be greatly helpful.
Cuomo's championing of same-sex marriage in New York makes
him a favorite of progressives. Cuomo has built a reputation of
fiscal responsibility while working with a Republican
legislature, making him an attractive voice for voters yearning
for across-the-aisle success stories.
As a Catholic and Italian-American, Cuomo, like Vice
President Joe Biden, could be a strong surrogate for the
president among conservative Democrats in the Rust Belt.
Cuomo's invisibility in Charlotte is also in sharp contrast
to his presence at the Democratic convention in Los Angeles 12
Then, Cuomo was a housing secretary in President Bill
Clinton's Cabinet, eyed as a possible challenger in the New York
gubernatorial race. He bobbed from state delegation breakfast to
affinity group meeting, with a New York Times reporter in tow.
That week, Cuomo's schedule of events ran 23 pages long.
Cuomo's demurrals also part from the attention-grabbing
flirtations with a run for higher office undertaken by his
father, Mario. The elder Cuomo earned the nickname "Hamlet on
the Hudson" for his public equivocations over whether to run for
president in 1992. He eventually decided not to run.
Even with the benefit of Manhattan's media megaphone, Andrew
Cuomo remains an uncertain figure for many party activists here.
"I know very little about him except that he wants to run in
2016," said Ana Canales, 59, a delegate from New Mexico and
Democratic Party chairwoman in Bernalillo, the state's most
Delegates have come to expect tributes from anyone with
designs on a White House run.
"He should be here and mingle if he wants people to vote for
him," Canales said. "He should put in the time."