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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Cuomo and Newsom differ in tackling gaps in Trump's coronavirus response

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on April 14.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on April 14. Credit: AP / Rich Pedroncelli

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There are big differences in substance and style between the Democratic governors of New York and California. The contrast is on display in their "out party" approaches to Republican President Donald Trump, with whom both governors have clashed.

Trump met Tuesday with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in the Oval Office. The two reportedly reached some understanding on resources, testing and coordination. Cuomo gets to say he made a case for tangible help without regard to party — "getting the job done" — while the president wins a fleeting impression of pragmatism in a former home state he can't win.

Don't expect Gavin Newsom, a first-term Golden State governor, to travel east and try to match Cuomo's performance. Newsom is on a different track. He invoked California's power as a "nation state" to say he'd use its purchasing power accordingly and lend 500 ventilators to other regions that need them.

Newsom's stay-at-home order issued March 9 was the first in the nation, flattening the spread of the virus relatively early. He also announced he'd use a big budget surplus to hire a Chinese firm to produce hundreds of millions of respiratory and surgical masks — but under a deal whose details are still remarkably opaque. That move was meant to cope with the Trump administration's deficiencies in aiding access to needed supplies.

Cuomo has had a kind of sparring-partner approach to cutting desired deals with top Republicans in Albany — by leveraging, schmoozing and prodding in face-to-face dealings. Clearly he's trying to apply that in a national forum. Along the way, he has sought to put extra public pressure on his own party in Washington, particularly Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

"I say to Senator Schumer, it would be nice if he passed a piece of legislation that actually helped the state of New York,” Cuomo told reporters during the first round of emergency relief legislation. Cuomo and Schumer have never been close politically or personally.

Schumer is the Senate’s top Democrat, while Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, is the top person in the House. In contrast to Cuomo and Schumer, she and Newsom come out of the same progressive circle in their home state. His aunt once was married to businessman Ron Pelosi, the speaker's brother-in-law.

Like Cuomo, Newsom hasn't been all negative on Trump despite some fierce disputes and court battles. Two weeks ago, Newsom credited the president's intervention with getting a Navy hospital ship to California and expanding federal resources there. "I have to be complimentary," he said. "Otherwise, I would be simply lying to you, misleading you, and that is a wonderful thing to be able to say, and I hope that continues."

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