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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Stirrings come early in race way down the track

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, with his running

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, with his running mate Kathy Hochul, now lieutenant governor, during the state's Democratic Convention at the Huntington Hilton in Melville on Thursday, May 22, 2014. A new poll shows that Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, second from right, has a higher approval rating than Cuomo or Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, right. Credit: Barry Sloan

For what it may be worth, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's approval rating rose to 51 percent in the Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday while Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's rating fell to 44 percent and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli drew 43 percent.

Like any public survey, it represented a blurry snapshot, subject to spin. After all, these three Democrats are less than six months into four-year terms. Projecting the poll's results into the future would be like making book today on the 2018 Belmont Stakes.

But in politics, the horse race is perpetual, and perceptions vital.

Few observers took it at face value when Cuomo hinted a few weeks ago that he's likely to seek a third term in three years. He said he would serve for "as long as the people would have me" and said the state is in the midst of a "phenomenal transformation."

That's a practical posture. Declare that you're leaving and you sign up for early lame-duck status, losing clout as the term ticks out.

Third terms in New York are known to be troublesome. The governor's job can be said to be putting high mileage on Cuomo's political odometer, given controversial issues from ethics to schools.

Cuomo spoke of life's unpredictability when his girlfriend and domestic partner, Sandra Lee, underwent cancer surgery recently. "A situation like this quickly puts life in the proper perspective and reminds one of what's truly important," he said.

Out on the public turf, early handicapping goes on.

Friends and fans of Schneiderman see good news in the Quinnipiac results. Last year at this time, going into re-election season, 46 percent said they approved of Schneiderman's job performance, with 18 percent disapproving and 37 percent offering no opinion.

This time, it was 51 percent approving, 22 percent disapproving and 27 percent offering no opinion. Schneiderman this year has been an almost constant presence in the news media, in contrast to the early part of his first term.

In recent days, for example, Schneiderman has been calling for an omnibus bill addressing legislators' conduct that includes a ban on most outside income for incumbents, along with other proposals that never have gotten through the State Senate and Assembly.

DiNapoli's potential also has attracted notice. In November the comptroller drew more votes than either Cuomo or Schneiderman. He has neither pushed nor tried to squelch private statements from allies about a possible 2018 candidacy for the top spot.

On the Republican side, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino in November netted about 41 percent of the vote against Cuomo. Although far out-financed, Astorino won 46 of the 57 counties outside New York City, including Suffolk and Monroe. Although he's back in his county job, Astorino issues stances on statewide issues and has signaled the possibility of another run for governor.

Last week he proposed strengthening Cuomo's campus sexual-assault bill that is before the State Legislature. He wished former Gov. George Pataki good luck in his longshot presidential bid, continues to slam the state's approach to the Common Core curriculum, and was among the first Republicans last month to call for Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) to step aside as majority leader after his corruption arrest.

The election may be too early for oddsmakers. But some horses seem to be stirring.


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