Mario M. Cuomo never ran for president, but he seems to be warming to the idea that his son might.
One recent Saturday, Mr. Cuomo, the former governor, showed up at his former residence, the Executive Mansion, and broached the unbroachable: before a crowd of about 100 relatives, friends and advisers gathered to mark his 80th birthday, he called his son, Andrew M. Cuomo, “the best governor in modern times,” and, according to several of those present, mused at length that the younger Mr. Cuomo might someday “have an opportunity to serve at a higher level, to serve the people of the United States.”
The moment was striking because — despite widespread discussion in political circles that Andrew Cuomo could be a strong contender for his party’s nomination in 2016 — the younger Mr. Cuomo has repeatedly sought to tamp down such talk. He has done so not because of any absence of ambition, but because he has carefully studied the presidential flirtation of the politician he knows best: his own father.
The younger Mr. Cuomo, although clearly paying attention to national politics, has taken a number of steps to show how serious he is about avoiding the national stage. He is planning a low-key role at this year’s Democratic National Convention — he will attend with the state’s delegation, but does not have a scheduled speech, despite being among the nation’s most popular governors. He has repeatedly turned down requests for interviews in the national news media, speaking almost exclusively to reporters from New York. He has made a point of rarely traveling outside the state, scheduling his vacations in the Adirondacks or the Hamptons.
By contrast, Mario Cuomo, less than two years into his governorship, vaulted into the national spotlight with a speech to the 1984 Democratic National Convention. He vacillated about the presidency for so long that he was at times derided as “Hamlet on the Hudson,” and he once famously left two planes sitting on a tarmac in Albany while he debated whether to fly to New Hampshire to enter the 1992 race.
Andrew Cuomo has made it clear that his own thinking about a possible presidential bid — or his decision not to think about it yet — is shaped by his assessment of his father’s experience; he believes the incessant speculation about his father’s potential presidential run hurt his ability to administer state government. For Mario Cuomo, budget negotiations with Senate Republicans became particularly fraught as presidential speculation grew louder. His son has been determined not to undermine his own tenure in Albany by fueling presidential chatter.
“I’ve seen this movie before, actually in this room,” he told reporters this year, while sitting in the Capitol’s Red Room, where governors have long held news conferences. “There’s like a whole little déjà vu going on for me. So I’ve seen this play, I know how it turns out.”
“Once you start saying let’s talk political — my own politics, my own aspirations — it can become not just distracting, in that it takes time, but it can become confusing and frustrating,” he added. “All I’m working on is being the best governor I can be.”
For many people, the prospect of an Andrew Cuomo candidacy seems obvious. The Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, who served as speaker and negotiating foil to both men, said of Andrew: “I think if the opportunity presented itself, he’d be honored to run, and he’ll run on his record as governor of New York.”
There have also been hints of a rising profile: two journalists are working on competing biographies of the governor, and Mr. Cuomo is planning to write his own book; all would be released before the next presidential election in 2016. Mr. Cuomo, an aggressive and prodigious fund-raiser, did travel to Los Angeles last year to raise money from gay and lesbian supporters, and this year, in Manhattan, he was chairman of a panel for the Democratic Governors Association, an important networking group for politicians with national aspirations.
Like his father, Andrew Cuomo is carrying forward a liberal social ideology, at times challenging the Roman Catholic Church, in which both men were raised. Mario Cuomo, the state’s 52nd governor, supported abortion rights, while Andrew Cuomo, the state’s 56th governor, persuaded the Legislature to legalize same-sex marriage; both positions are at odds with church teachings. Mario Cuomo was also renowned for his opposition to the death penalty; Andrew this year tried but failed to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
But their differences are also distinct. Andrew Cuomo’s fiscal and economic policy takes more of a centrist cue from former President Bill Clinton, in whose cabinet he served as housing secretary; Mr. Cuomo remains close to Mr. Clinton, and the possibility that Mr. Clinton’s wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, could run for president in 2016 is a significant complication for Mr. Cuomo.
At the Executive Mansion party, Mario Cuomo wore a sport coat and an open-collared shirt, and if his voice was not quite as powerful and he did not stand quite as tall as he once did, he was in a good mood, joking with aides, working the crowd. Andrew Cuomo’s own speech was poignant and laudatory of his father — he called him “my hero.”
Mario Cuomo followed up his comment about higher office by saying, “Not that anyone should want such a thing.” The crowd laughed, but he said, “No, I mean it,” and then he lamented that a president could wake up in the morning, press the wrong button and be at war.
He said there had been too many bad wars of late, and then he explained, in his aggressively Socratic way, why he and his son do what they do. He talked about his time as an altar boy and said he had even worked on Sabbaths at a synagogue. He said he believed that people are on earth for a purpose, to make a difference, to make the world a better place, and that that was the underpinning of their belief in government.
Slightly varying versions of the remarks were related by four people present who spoke on the condition of anonymity, because the remarks were meant to be kept private. The Cuomo administration had no comment, and Mario Cuomo did not return calls for comment.
Source: The NY Times