Cuomo out to raise national profile with liberal agenda, pundits say

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo addresses the

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo addresses the Legislature. (Jan. 22, 2013) (Credit: AP)

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's proposal to guarantee women in New York the right to late-term abortions likely will be a hard-fought battle with conservatives in the Republican-led State Senate, but the move could raise his standing with the Democratic Party's liberal base as he positions himself for a possible presidential run in 2016, some political observers say.

The abortion rights proposal will be tucked into a package of women's rights legislation that would tackle thorny issues, from pay equity to sex trafficking and pregnancy protections. The Democratic governor is expected to unveil the package sometime this year.

Some political observers -- particularly Republicans -- say the move is part of Cuomo's increasingly ultraliberal agenda -- from proposals to increase the minimum wage to decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana -- as he tries to boost his political profile outside New York.

"He's trying to identify who his base would be if he decides to run for president," said Mike Edelman, a GOP consultant. "Whether it's gun control or women's rights proposals, he is clearly trying to put out chips to constituent groups that he is going to need down the road. Assuming that Hillary [Rodham Clinton] doesn't run, he wants to claim the liberal heir."

Tony Sayegh, a GOP strategist, agreed.

"He's positioning himself for a run for higher office, and he's trying to build up a base of support," Sayegh said.

Cuomo's press office didn't return several phone calls seeking comment.

Evan Stavisky, a political consultant with the Parkside Group who works mostly with Democrats, said Cuomo is focused on pursuing a "common-sense agenda," one that is fitting for New York as "the progressive capital of the nation."

"He's making the state a leader again and focusing on issues that New Yorkers really care about," Stavisky said. And if Cuomo's agenda boosts his popularity with Democratic voters outside the state, that's just "icing on the cake," Stavisky said.

Similarly, state Sen. David Carlucci (D-Clarkstown) said Cuomo's proposals to increase the minimum wage and codify federal abortion rights protections in state law are important issues that are in line with national political sentiments.

"We should be protecting a woman's right to choose, no matter what the federal government does," said Carlucci, a member of the Independent Democratic Caucus, a breakaway group of Democrats in the Senate.

In his State of the State address last month, Cuomo ticked off a host of "progressive" initiatives -- from tough gun control laws to expanded abortion rights -- many that he wasn't able to get passed during his first term in office.

A recent Quinnipiac University poll suggests that despite a decline in Cuomo's overall favorability prompted by the passage of his gun control laws, New Yorkers support many of the initiatives he outlined in his speech, including strengthening laws requiring equal pay for women, raising the minimum wage and reducing the influence of money in politics.

Among politicians, support for Cuomo's agenda seem to be divided along party lines.

"Unfortunately, Gov. Cuomo is only managing the decline of New York," Ed Cox, chairman of the New York Republican Party, said in a statement to Newsday. "He is focused more on his own ambition than he is on the fact that New York remains the most regulated, most taxed, least business-friendly state, with the highest debt per capita in the nation."

Meanwhile, State Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) argued that many of the provisions of Cuomo's women's rights package, including abortion rights and equality pay, are initiatives Democrats have been trying to get passed in the Legislature for years but that haven't gained traction.

"This should not be a partisan issue," she said. "This is about creating equality for women, protecting their right to make personal decisions about their health and generally improving how they're treated from the cradle to grave."

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