Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a media briefing at the...

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a media briefing at the Office of the Governor of the State of New York on July 23, 2020, in New York City.  Credit: TNS/Jeenah Moon

WASHINGTON – New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to draw a sharp contrast Monday between how he and President Donald Trump have handled the coronavirus pandemic as a speaker on the first night of the Democratic National Convention. 

Cuomo will be joined by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in laying out a major Democratic line of attack on Trump, after they both won plaudits for their presentations on health and safety to their constituents and the actions that they took to drive down coronavirus infections and deaths. 

“They are the voice of the alternative direction that Donald Trump could have taken,” said Lawrence Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota. 

“A lot of what this convention is going to be about is trying to contrast with Donald Trump,” he said. “And the number one issue in the mind the voters is the coronavirus and its economic consequences.” 

Democrats will kick off their convention by highlighting the pandemic, unemployment and racial inequality, according to the Democratic National Convention Committee. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues its rampage, tens of millions of people are out of work, and America is confronting the racial injustice that has marginalized too many people,” the committee said in a press release. 

“On Monday, we’ll hear from the many Americans who are rising up to take on these three crises, unite our country, and join Joe Biden in rebuilding the country and moving it forward,” the release said. 

\Michigan's Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is seen inn Lansing, Mich....

\Michigan's Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is seen inn Lansing, Mich. June 17, 2020, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington on May 27, 2020 Credit: Both photos AP

Cuomo will be one of at least 11 speakers whose racial and ideological diversity showcases a broad anti-Trump coalition backing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California. 

The stars of the program on Monday will be former First Lady Michelle Obama – a Democratic favorite -- and two Biden rivals: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who ran against him from the left and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who ran for president in 2016 and has been critical of Trump. 

Also appearing in the tightly packaged session will be a racially and ethnically diverse group of elected officials, all but one from the South and Midwest. 

The speeches likely will be short, squeezed into a two-hour program that also will include music acts and taped segments. The program runs from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time each night.  

Meanwhile, Trump will offer a counter-program Monday by traveling to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Arizona to criticize Biden on jobs, the economy, immigration and border security. 

Cuomo became a counterpoint to Trump’s contradictory handling of the novel coronavirus. 

Trump on Twitter and in daily briefings downplayed its spread and deadly effects, touted questionable remedies, never wore a mask, and encouraged public gatherings, states' quick economic re-openings and sending students back to in-person classes at schools. 

As the virus quickly spread in New York City and Long Island, Cuomo gave daily fact-based presentations with a powerpoint, explaining and humanizing his steps with anecdotes and advice. CNN picked up Cuomo’s briefings and allowed his brother Chris to interview him.  

Cuomo’s job approval rating soared in New York from 44% in February to 77% in March to 65% in June, according to the Siena College Poll.  

“He's been a clear, concise communicator, and very early on made a connection with people,” said Doug Muzzio, a political scientist at Baruch College. “But his handling of the initial decision-making is open to questions.” 

Cuomo made some early missteps – slow to close schools and businesses and sending patients who had COVID-19 to nursing homes – but has since taken steps that flattened the curve, lowering New York’s share of cases from 40% in March to 8% in mid-August. 

Now California, Florida and Texas have more cases than New York. 

Cuomo has praised the president for providing equipment and funding for New York, but he has increasingly criticized him. Two weeks ago, Cuomo called Trump’s handling of the pandemic “the worst government blunder in modern history.” 

Last month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, hailed New York in a PBS interview for flattening the curve of the number of COVID-19 cases with testing, contact tracing and social distancing. 

“We know that, when you do it properly, you bring down those cases. We have done it. We have done it in New York,” he said. “New York got hit worse than any place in the world. And they did it correctly by doing the things that you're talking about.” 

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