John Fund, one time California legislative staffer before he started a distinguished journalism career, asked in his recent National Review column if a Draft Cuomo movement could supplant Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee for president to take on Donald Trump. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is getting like positive notices for his performance during the coronavirus crisis as the New York governor, but not the support online or in columns as a presidential alternative in 2020.
First thing to consider is that it would take extraordinary events to create an upheaval great enough to knock candidates who have been campaigning for the presidency off the rails at this late stage. But we are living in extraordinary times and such events are happening all around us. Fund offers a historical precedent of Wendell Wilkie surprisingly capturing the Republican presidential nomination at the 1940 GOP convention.
While Cuomo and Newsom have received national attention and praise for making command decisions to deal with the coronavirus; and their press conferences are covered by national media, for all practical purposes, Biden has disappeared. His effort to be seen by setting up a television studio in his home has been feeble at best.
Meanwhile, the governors of arguably the two most influential states have had nearly free rein as stay-at-home audiences watch them issue executive orders to confront the crisis from seeking medical equipment, setting up hospital beds, to declaring enforcement of their ordered isolation policies.
As political consultants will tell you, you can’t buy the kind of publicity the two coastal governors are getting now.
Their actions sometimes contrast from the directions laid out by President Trump, although both governors have been quick to praise Trump when he has offered federal assistance.
Cuomo at age 62 and Newsom, 52, with their image of command and vigor in dealing with the crisis, contrast favorably to 77-year-old former Vice-President Biden’s lost presence as the spreading virus roils America.
The so-far under-the-radar chatter about the presidential contest comes at a time that a new Washington Post-ABC poll declares that Trump has closed a healthy gap that Biden enjoyed a month ago to a near statistical tie.
There is a long way to go until the July Democratic convention and the twists and turns in the coronavirus saga are unknown. Cuomo’s and Newsom’s responses, while being praised today, might fade as time goes on. Especially considering that New York and California, with their large populations, already report the largest number of coronavirus cases and deaths.
If the crisis continues, neither governor can be seen abandoning the leadership role in their states to quest for a higher office. But if the crisis dissipates in a month or two the actions of the two governors could be acclaimed.
Until a candidate has the necessary delegates in hand to capture the nomination, anything can happen in a time of uncertainty.
If Democrats decided to go outside traditional channels to select a nominee and the two high-profile governors are the obvious choices, Cuomo has the advantage and it comes down to a subject often associated with reporting on sports teams: an East Coast bias.
Cuomo is operating in the media center of the nation. He has the opportunity to capture more press than Newsom. When the California governor does a 6 p.m. press conference, it is already 9 p.m. on the East Coast. Many of the news stories have been written for the day, and television audiences are probably tuning into entertainment shows to escape from the dreariness of the virus news.
The scenario of either Cuomo or Newsom becoming a presidential contender in 2020 is extremely unlikely. However, there are political drumbeats about the possibilities of someone besides Biden or the still active presidential candidate Bernie Sanders taking the nomination, and stranger things have been known to happen.