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Do not be surprised if it’s Cuomo vs. Clinton in 2016

By Tom Allon

Those of us who are native New Yorkers like to think that the sun revolves around Times Square — or Queens Boulevard or Eastern Parkway or the Grand Concourse — depending on which borough you call home.

So every four years or so we start that unlikely parlor game of speculation of whom among our elected officials is likely to be the next president of the United States.

The only one who came remotely close in the past few generations is Hillary Clinton, the former U.S. senator from New York — remember that rung on the ladder?. But, of course, a lithe and silver-tongued phenom from Chicago — who lived briefly in New York when he attended Columbia in the 1980s — came along to upset her historic candidacy. (You could say breaking the racial barrier in the Oval Office trumped breaking the gender glass ceiling.)

Other New Yorkers whose White House dreams have been dashed include Rudy Giuliani, John Lindsay and another silver-tongued orator named Mario Cuomo.

Now, three decades later, Cuomo’s son, Andrew, is very much in the mix for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 with one large impediment in his way: a battle-tested and historic figure named Hillary Clinton.

But listening to her speak on the “Charlie Rose” show recently, I was left with the impression that even though she truly wants to be president, it is not certain that she wants to put herself and her family through two more years of mudslinging about Whitewater, Monica, Benghazi and other assorted issues that have become targets from her very public life the past 2 1/2 decades.

And if she decides that her quest for the presidency has come and gone, then there will be Andrew Cuomo, a former Clinton administration official, ready to leap into the fray for the Democratic nomination.

Would Cuomo have a chance on the national stage? How would his brand of bipartisan, results-oriented governing play to the increasingly large left wing of the Democratic Party, which is emerging in large urban centers around the country?

Well, Cuomo should get lots of liberal cred for his impressive passage of marriage equality in his first year as well as his anti-gun laws in the wake of the federal government’s failure to act after the Newtown school massacre.

With Hillary sucking all the air out of the discussion of potential contenders, there is only faint talk of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley as alternatives.

If Hillary passes, Cuomo could do well in this type of field because of his record, the fact that he is political royalty — father Mario was one of the party elders in the 1980s and himself often mentioned for president — and because he is Clinton-esque in his high political IQ.

If he rolls up a big re-election victory this November, as many expect he will, look for the Cuomo machine to start keeping one eye on Hillary and her big decision and another on Iowa and New Hampshire, early primary states for 2016.

Across the Hudson, we see the temporary revival of Gov. Chris Christie, who is barnstorming a lot in Iowa, purportedly helping the governor there get re-elected, but really testing the GOP waters to see if he can come back from his Bridgegate scandal.

It is too early to tell if he is completely out of the woods and thus cleared for a bruising nomination campaign, but it’s interesting to see that people such as the Iowa governor are not trying to keep him away as a potential liability.

We’ll be watching the maneuvering of both governors in the coming months, but right now a fantasy 2016 matchup of Christie vs. Cuomo, although far-fetched, is not out of the realm of possibilities.

Tom Allon, president of City & State NY, was a Republican and Liberal Party-backed mayoral candidate in 2013 before he left to return to the private sector. Reach him at tallon@cityandstateny.com.

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