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9 Presidential Flirts

How many ways can a politician say “no”—while still leaving the door open to a presidential run?

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The Waffler: Mario Cuomo

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Things looked bleak for Democrats in 1991. Since 1980, they’d been getting spanked in presidential elections—first by Reagan, and then by Bush. Bolstered by the Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush looked strong, and no one in the opposition seemed ready to take him down. Many Democrats pinned their hopes on New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. In fall 1991, he started chatting up strategists, even while downplaying the explorations in public with tortured statements: “They said, ‘Will you think about it?’ I said, ‘Sure, I’ll think about it. I’m always thinking about it.’ I said I’d have to be mindless not to think about it. I don’t talk about it, but I think about it. Of course I do.” His waffling earned him the derisive honorific “Hamlet on the Hudson,” but Cuomo eventually decided not to run, leaving Democrats stuck with a young Arkansan named Bill Clinton.

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