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Cuomo blames low voter turnout on dissatisfaction with Obama

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks as supporters gather

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks as supporters gather in Manhattan after the polls close on Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. Credit: Craig Ruttle

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday blamed Democrats' poor turnout in New York elections and a steep drop in his vote count on dissatisfaction with the Obama administration, rather than Democrats' discontent with him.

"These things tend to move on large currents, and the current was a Republican tide, dissatisfaction with a Democratic administration in Washington, premised on economic anxiety," Cuomo said on "The Capitol Pressroom," a public radio program.

"And I don't think anything we were talking about had any relevance, frankly, that would change that one way or the other," he said.

Cuomo defeated Republican Rob Astorino on Tuesday, 54 percent to 41 percent, with Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins garnering 5 percent.

The percentages hid a significant slide in Cuomo's support. This year, he received 1.94 million votes -- a one-third decline from his 2.91 million in 2010. Cuomo's 2014 vote total was the lowest for a gubernatorial winner since Franklin D. Roosevelt's in 1930.

While Cuomo's vote totals dropped, Republican gubernatorial candidates this year and in 2010 (another huge Republican year nationally) received almost the same number of votes: about 1.5 million.

About 3.7 million (33 percent) of New York's registered voters went to the polls, the fewest in modern history.

Despite Cuomo's assigning blame on Washington Thursday, some Democrats had talked for more than a month about an "enthusiasm gap" about the governor's re-election campaign. They said Cuomo had "not worked his base," as he tried to govern from the middle, enacting business tax cuts that Republicans favor.

Cuomo also did very little traditional "retail" politicking, such as campaign and meet-and-greet voter events.

In polls, Cuomo's job approval rating hit an all-time low shortly before the election.

But Thursday, he brushed aside reports of rank-and-file Democrats' disaffection. He also said turnout might have been suppressed because few saw Astorino as a threat to win.

"I'm surprised my family came out to vote for me," Cuomo joked.

In the election aftermath, the Working Families Party bitterly blamed Cuomo for Republicans winning a majority in the State Senate and taking three Democratic congressional seats in New York.

The labor-backed WFP, which endorsed Cuomo in May in exchange for a promise to help Senate Democrats, said the governor instead focused on his own re-election while "Democrats in the legislature and in Congress withered on the vine."

Cuomo tried to deflect the criticism, saying voters aren't often inspired to turn out for down-ballot contests.

"Well, 'Come out for the State Senate' was about our best argument," Cuomo said. "You know what? State Senate, it's hard to motivate people about a State Senate."

Cuomo said he should get credit for outperforming others nationally. He noted that Democrats lost in traditionally blue states such as Massachusetts, Maryland and Illinois. "My margin of victory was like the second-highest in the country" among governors, he said.

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