It's been a rough six months for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. At the beginning of the year, the seemingly invincible political popularity that he'd carried for almost two years was riding high and he could get virtually anything he wanted out of Albany. Flash forward to today, and you might ask who this lookalike is and what he's done with the real Cuomo.
It's a slide that's been reflected by his poll numbers. Six months ago, the Governor sported an almost Olympian 74 percent approval and 13 percent disapproval; the most recent poll out days ago has him barely above water at 50 to 49, a net change of 60 points in 200 days. He lost 30 of those points almost overnight pushing through the SAFE Act, and subsequently has continued bleeding as Albany has seen a wave of corruption charges, arrests of lawmakers, and other scandals like Sheldon Silver. Cuomo has tried to avoid taking a stand on the controversies, but his ability to get legislation done has suddenly dried up.
For Cuomo, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more his formerly rock-solid popularity wanes, the more legislators are going to feel empowered to fight him. The magic of his 2010 landslide has suddenly worn off. Worse for Cuomo, there doesn't seem to be anything on the horizon that will hand him a win.
His anti-corruption proposals are dead in the water, same for campaign finance, the abortion plank likely as well. Cuomo himself is currently the roadblock in front of an almost ridiculously popular medical marijuana law. (According to Siena, a whopping 82 percent of New Yorkers support medical marijuana, including 77 percent of self-described conservatives.) Going forward, that gridlock stemming from a newly hostile legislature is likely to be the biggest threat to Cuomo's ambitions.
While his ongoing slide might raise a few eyebrows over at State GOP headquarters, the pure fact is that Republicans still lack a credible candidate to try and beat him, and may simply not be able to find one. The Republican bench statewide is so narrow that it might be better called a stool. So losing reelection next year is probably not even on Cuomo's radar.
It's probably the worst kept political secret in New York State that Cuomo wants to run for President in 2016, and the legislature may now be his primary enemy in that ambition. Even if Hillary Clinton doesn't run - despite polling that indicates she could take the nomination in a walk - another two years of gridlock and fading approval in New York could put Cuomo in an ugly place going into what could be a hotly contested Democratic primary. All the more so with the recent failures of some of his high profile legislation, bills whose biggest benefit may have been to boost his bona fides for the Democratic base ahead of a primary.
Unfortunately, Cuomo may be a victim of getting exactly what he wants - as he has tried to tack back to his base, his popularity has actually increased with my fellow Democrats. But he's taken a big hit among independents and Republicans.
While the Governor still has plenty of material to work with and may be able to pull out a few popularity-boosting moves, he's suddenly in a tight position, one that may be ill suited to the kind of domineering attitude he's taken to the legislature over the first two years of his term.
Cuomo has shown he's good at pushing, but he's now being tested with how he can handle a hostile environment He may end up being hamstrung by the one thing that he never addressed when he had the chance - the dysfunctionality of the state legislature. It's that same ludicrously-gerrymandered, highly partisan set of elected representatives that may now control his future.