Back in the political pre-historical era known as 2011, the list of possible contenders for the Democratic nomination in 2016 was long, and near the top of list was Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo after all had just won election as governor of New York by beating a Republican challenger in the Tea Party year of 2010 by 28 points. He had a record as attorney general of cleaning up Wall Street and the ethical cesspool that is Albany, and in his brief tenure in office seemed to have scared the statehouse straight, passing on-time budgets and successfully pushing for landmark marriage equality legislation. And Hillary Clinton, the now all-but certain Democratic nominee, was still playing the role of loyal underling to President Barack Obama, and denying that she was interested in mounting another campaign.
Five years later, Hillary Clinton barnstormed back to her home state of New York to boost Cuomo’s re-election bid against underdog Republican challenger Rob Astorino.
But the question of Clinton’s own future campaign seemed to be much more on the minds of the 500 or so Democratic partisans who piled into a ballroom at the Hyatt Hotel in midtown Manhattan. The event was ostensibly a “Woman for Cuomo” event, designed to highlight his agenda for female voters. But no sooner had Clinton taken the microphone from Cuomo running mate Kathy Hochul than the crowd began chanting “2016! 2016”
Clinton paid tribute to Cuomo, who served eight years in President Bill Clinton’s Department of Housing and Urban Development, framing the election as one that was about what kind of state she wants her newborn granddaughter, Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky, to grow up in.
“I am now a grandmother,” she said to hoots from the audience. “I still feel that grandmother glow. There is something about a new life in your family that really does focus you on the future, doesn’t it? And I believe strongly that I want our granddaughter to have the same opportunity that gave Bill in Arkansas, me growing up in the Chicago area, the chance to take advantage of the blessings and the advantages we have in this country.”
Clinton praised Cuomo’s commitment to marriage equality—a subject she has gotten tripped up on earlier this year—as well as Cuomo’s controversial gun control measures, which have come under fire from both gun rights supporters and those who say they stigmatize people who have received counseling for mental illness.
Clinton also poked fun at her own electoral troubles in 2008 in urging New Yorkers to turn out for Cuomo even though he has a wide lead in the polls.
“You can’t take anything for granted in an election. I know that from first-hand experience,” she said to laughs.
By the time Cuomo got up to speak, many of the audience members, who had been waiting for the event to begin for over an hour after its scheduled start time, began to file out. The governor told the remaining members of the audience however that when he is asked what Clinton will do, he responds by saying that Clinton “is so good, that whatever she does, she is going to be an overwhelming success.”
“But there is a post-script to that line which I will share with you today,” he added. “And I hope she does something really, really big.”
To this, Clinton, seated on stage, merely turned up her palms and shrugged.
After the event, Cuomo was asked by reporters if that meant he is endorsing Clinton. And even though dozens of elected officials have joined Ready for Hillary, a SuperPAC encouraging Clinton to enter the race, Cuomo said he was not joining the effort.
“Hillary Clinton can’t be endorsed, because Hillary Clinton hasn’t said if she is running for anything. She would have to announce that she is running and then people would have to choose to support her or not.”
When asked by a public radio why Cuomo sounded as if he was encouraging Clinton to run, he smiled and dismissed the suggestion.
“That might be a radio reporter. That is big. A TV reporter is big. These are all big things.”
Clinton was gone by that point, however, gone to campaign on behalf of more Democratic candidates who need her help.