Actress Cynthia Nixon made some political news today:
She’s giving every impression this is a serious undertaking. Qualifying for the governor’s race doesn’t even begin until June, and the primary’s on September 13. If Nixon just wanted the buzz of a potential candidacy without making a commitment, she could have waited for quite some time. Another sign of her seriousness is the people who have signed on with her candidacy from the get-go. They include Bill Hyers and Rebecca Katz, formerly best known as strategists for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. And her campaign treasurer is Zephyr Teachout, who made her own left-bent challenge to Governor Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic gubernatorial primary four years ago.
Taking on Cuomo so early could reflect an understanding that overcoming the incumbent’s huge campaign stash (an estimated $30 million) will be a herculean task. Or it could just indicate that Nixon wants to annoy and provoke the famously averse-to-criticism Cuomo for a long time, exposing the uglier aspects of his personality and possibly encouraging him to overreact in a politically damaging way. Truth is, Nixon will become a national heroine to many progressives if she simply succeeds in sidetracking Cuomo from the 2020 presidential run he is clearly contemplating.
She’s already showing some shrewd moves in getting under Cuomo’s thin skin, as the Cut’s Gabriella Paiella notes:
[S]he announced today that she’s officially running for governor, with a platform that includes “fixing our broken subway.” In a press release, her campaign office added that “unlike Andrew Cuomo, Cynthia rides the subway nearly every day, and understands the toll that his disastrous mismanagement of the MTA is taking on New Yorkers.”
Nixon’s big advantage over other potential lefty challengers to Cuomo is name (and face) ID, thanks to her starring role as Miranda in the iconic and long-running show Sex and the City. That the incumbent is acutely aware of that factor was illustrated by his immediate reaction to her announcement:
It’s a sign of the low regard Cuomo’s personality has earned that this quip came across as “condescending.” And if Nixon can keep it up and survive a long and brutal primary campaign without making big mistakes of her own, she could without a great deal of effort spoil the self-love-fest the governor had clearly hoped his reelection campaign would become.
Forty-two percent of voters rated Cuomo’s job performance as good or excellent; with 57 percent rating it poor or fair. That’s his lowest job approval rating since September 2016. But 52 percent of respondents viewed Cuomo himself favorably, statistically unchanged from February.
With luck and skill Nixon could exploit meh assessments of the job Cuomo’s doing in a way that lures him into behavior that will dent his personal favorability as well. And then it could become a real contest.