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Call it Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's upstate summer.
For the past two months, he has been focused relentlessly on upstate New York. One year before he’s up for re-election, he has barnstormed week after week, making appearances to promote tourism and dole out government largesse.
Wine tour? Check. NASCAR races? Check. Personally hand flood-relief checks to victims? Check.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence: upstate is where the Democratic governor’s poll ratings are weakest.
Political observers said Cuomo’s peripatetic schedule has been good for producing local news splashes. But the promotions won’t fix upstate’s economic problems and it’s unclear if they will boost Cuomo’s ratings, experts said.
“He’s getting a fair amount of local publicity for these visits but I suspect that, in the long run, it’s not going make much difference,” said Bruce Altschuler, a political-science professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Oswego. “People are cynical about governors coming up the year before the election and promising to turn things around.”
A Quinnipiac University poll in June, just before the flurry of Cuomo trips, showed that 53 percent of New Yorkers approved his performance and 30 percent disapproved. Upstate, it was much closer: 45-39.
A Siena College poll in August showed the governor’s “favorability” numbers improved upstate after his travels, but a majority still disapproved of his performance.
“He’s got some tough issues upstate,” said Marist College pollster Lee Miringoff. “It’s jobs. It’s energy. It’s guns.”
The upstate economy is still struggling. And many residents oppose a new gun-control law Cuomo rushed through the legislature in January.
As for energy, high-volume natural gas drilling seems to be on hold indefinitely, with a moratorium now in its fifth year.
“Apparently, he’ll be studying it the rest of his first term,” Altschuler quipped.
While busy upstate, Cuomo stayed out of New York City during the heat of a mayoral primary. He’s made no endorsement in the race and has tried his best to steer clear of weighing in at all.
Notably, Cuomo’s white water race against New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in July to promote the Adirondack Park landed him on national TV and prompted a few questions about his interest in running for president in 2016.