Talk all you want about the need for science-based Ebola policy, but it will be political science -- and campaign calculus -- that hold sway for at least the next few days.
Tuesday's gubernatorial election approaches like its own force of nature while Ebola keeps leading the news.
Consider how they mesh.
Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate for governor, called weeks ago for suspending flights from Ebola-stricken West African countries to Kennedy Airport. "The last thing we need is to be politically correct and then have a crisis get out of hand," said the Westchester County executive.
Astorino wasn't singing this tune solo. His alarms echoed a GOP talking point sounded by such figures as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, amid congressional midterm campaigns nationwide. Their group diagnosis: The federal government under (low-polling) President Barack Obama and other Democrats-in-charge was failing to act aggressively.
Responding, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo agreed with those who suggested a flight ban wouldn't help. Later, he said such a decision rests with the Federal Aviation Administration. Last week, he appeared alongside New York City's progressively-bent Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio -- just before and just after Dr. Craig Spencer was diagnosed with the disease and isolated in Bellevue Hospital. If it isn't symptomatic, it isn't contagious, he said.
Then the governor took a sudden, Cuomo-esque step or two outside the New York Democratic pack. He crossed the partisan border to team up with New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie in announcing 21-day quarantines for returning health care workers who had direct contact with Ebola patients. The two governors jointly control the Port Authority, which runs regional airports.
Both seemed to think they were getting out ahead of the problem, to where federal officials will eventually go. Meanwhile, the now-famous nurse Kaci Hickox called her quarantine in a Newark tent a violation of her liberty, and supporters said such treatment would discourage sorely needed medical professionals from traveling to the afflicted areas.
Next, Cuomo said the quarantine in question could be done at home -- unlike Hickox's -- with monitoring visits from medical professionals. Some saw it as Cuomo backpedaling, or at least a softening of tone.
Excessive precautions? "I'll take that criticism because that's better than the alternative," Cuomo said. One way or another, he's clearly determined to be hands-on -- and seen that way.
This wasn't the first time Cuomo shuttled between positions on the perceived red-to-blue political spectrum.
It leaves Astorino trying to strike a moving target.
"Mr. Cuomo seems to be making policies up as he goes along, almost on a whim, and that's the worst possible thing a government figurehead can do," Astorino said Monday. "We need a steady hand at the tiller right now, not a governor acting haphazardly. New York has had a month's notice that Ebola was on its way. There is no excuse for this state to be unprepared."
The Ebola story has a long way to go; the campaign does not.