MEDIA WATCH: Media maintains critical stance despite Cuomo's withdrawal

Andrew Cuomo's September 3 withdrawal from his campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor of New York was seen as a surprising move, in that it was so close to the September 10 primary. The former Clinton Cabinet secretary and son of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo had once been considered the front-runner for the Democratic nod. But Cuomo had fallen badly behind in the polls against State Comptroller Carl McCall, and few actually expected him to win.

Andrew Cuomo's September 3 withdrawal from his campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor of New York was seen as a surprising move, in that it was so close to the September 10 primary. The former Clinton Cabinet secretary and son of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo had once been considered the front-runner for the Democratic nod. But Cuomo had fallen badly behind in the polls against State Comptroller Carl McCall, and few actually expected him to win.

In explaining the factors involved in Cuomo's decision, media reports most often focused on how the candidate simply failed to connect with voters. While acknowledging that Cuomo benefited from his family name, his marriage into the Kennedy family, and his position in the Clinton administration, media reports depicted his personality as being his biggest problem. Salon.com (September 3) wrote that he was a man who seemed to have everything, "except for one small problem - people just didn't like him. Cuomo's ability to alienate was almost unparalleled." The reporting on his personality was replete with phrases such as "too aggressive," "overly ambitious," and "too ruthless." Nearly all coverage carried the official line that Cuomo bowed out in the name of party unity, not wanting to go negative on McCall. But there was widespread commentary that Cuomo was actually trying to save face by presenting the image of a team player supporting the leading party candidate, rather than one of the loser of a primary. Newsday (September 4) interpreted his move as "clearly intended to preserve Cuomo's chances of running for public office again." Approximately half of the reports analyzed traced Cuomo's downfall to his public statements that Gov. George Pataki (R-NY) "held the leader's coat," in allowing then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to take the lead in the aftermath of 9/11. It was widely observed that this comment marked the beginning of the end for Cuomo. USA Today (September 4) wrote, "That line reinforced feelings among many Democrats that Cuomo offered little more than raging ambition and a dynastic pedigree." In fact, the media often noted the lack of support for Cuomo's bid among New York's senior Democratic establishment. It was reported that many felt that veteran politician McCall had paid his dues and earned the right for the chance to become the first African-American governor of New York. A number of media outlets latched onto the significance of Sen. Hilary Clinton's (D-NY) unspoken support for McCall, marching together in a parade days before Cuomo's announcement. Although both Clintons declared themselves to be neutral in the New York gubernatorial primary, it was widely suspected that both favored McCall and played a role in negotiating Cuomo's move. Finally, it was often noted that as a first-time candidate for electoral office, Cuomo had run a pretty sloppy campaign. The Chicago Tribune (September 4) quoted a pundit as saying, "He ran a poor-to-terrible campaign, strategically and tactically. Forget about shooting yourself in the foot - it was a shoot-yourself-in-the-knee-and-then-go-after-the-vital-organs campaign." While Cuomo's move may have brought him back into the good graces of the Democratic Party, there are still questions about whether he'd be an attractive candidate further down the line.
  • Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found at www.carma.com.

  • Have you registered with us yet?

    Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

    Register
    Already registered?
    Sign in

    Would you like to post a comment?

    Please Sign in or register.