For well over one hundred years, New York was our most populous state. Consequently, it held the most electoral votes, almost automatically making its governors serious presidential contenders.
But old habits die hard. The last New York Governor elected president was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who served from 1933 to 1945. Still, there have been other serious presidential contenders since then who had dreams of moving from the Governor’s mansion in Albany to the White House.
Thomas Dewey -- who ran against Roosevelt in 1944 and nearly upset President Harry S. Truman in 1948 -- came the closest. Averell Harriman gave it a couple of shots in 1952 and 1956, while Mario Cuomo – the current governor’s father – did some great Hamlet imitations during his three terms – debating with himself whether or not to run. The tortured answer was always, “No, not this time.”
Perhaps New York’s most ardent pursuer of the presidency during the second half of the twentieth century was Nelson Rockefeller, who held down its governorship from 1958 to 1974, when President Gerald Ford appointed him Vice President. Rockefeller dueled with Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater for the Republican nomination in 1964 – a race that was not settled until Goldwater’s narrow victory in the June California primary.
During the next few decades California, Texas, and then Florida overtook New York in population, and consequently, electoral votes. While decades before, nearly every newly elected New York governor was almost automatically considered presidential timber, in more recent years they have been treated very much like other big-state governors.
Poor George Pataki, who served as New York’s governor from 1994 to 2006, never got the memo. He flirted with running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and 2012, but quickly backed out. When he finally tossed his hat into the Republican nomination ring in 2016, about the only folks who took his bid seriously were his family and closest friends.
And that brings us to Andrew Cuomo, who, in just under two weeks, will match his dad’s feat of having been elected for three terms. When asked during his gubernatorial primary debate with Cynthia Nixon about his presidential ambitions, he stated quite unambiguously that if he were reelected, he would serve his full four- year term -- unless God struck him dead.
But what if there were a deadlocked Democratic national convention in 2020, and in desperation, the delegates turned to him? What would he do if God then released him from his pledge?
But those eventualities will surely never come to pass. Even the Democrats could never sink to that level of desperation.