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At debate, Cuomo at bat

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks at the Democratic

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks at the Democratic gubernatorial primary debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead on Wednesday. Credit: Newsday / Pool / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

To: Democratic National Committee members, major Democratic donors

Subject: Wednesday night’s game performance RE potential call-up to the big leagues.

Name: Andrew Mark Cuomo

Age: 59

Campaigns: Left

Governs: From either side

Experience: Cuomo is in his eighth year as governor of New York, after being called up from the state Attorney General’s office. He has an electoral win/loss record of 3-0, with a no-decision in the 2002 governor’s race. Some analysts see Cuomo as a five-tool player (hits opponents often, hits opponents for power, runs hard in campaigns, fields tough questions, throws aside criticism). Others, though, argue he cannot hit the curveball, loses his cool easily, is not a team player and will never compete successfully at the next level.

In the Wednesday evening Democratic gubernatorial primary debate, Cuomo faced off at Hofstra University against Cynthia Nixon, 52, a flashy newcomer who, after a quick start in the Gubernatorial League, seemed to endure a late-summer fade, not unusual in political rookies. In the debate, though, she came out swinging, interrupting Cuomo, speaking over him and arguing that “experience doesn’t matter when you’re not very good at governing.”

One pitch Cuomo was well prepared for was when he was asked whether he would promise to play out his four-year stint in Albany if elected and not seek call-up to Washington in 2020. Cuomo hit that ball hard, claiming the only way he would not finish his term is if “God strikes me dead.” But he did leave fans with the hope he could be persuaded, pointing to the left field wall and saying the real home run in protecting New Yorkers will have to be hit in Washington, against President Donald Trump. “Someone has to stand up to him,” Cuomo argued. “Someone has to stop him.”

The question, based on Wednesday night, is whether he could win at that level. The answer is inconclusive. He did have some foul tips, like repeatedly referring to the “billions” of dollars that make up the state budget as “millions” during a conversation about single-payer health care. He also failed to advance the runners with weak swings at Nixon for paying taxes through corporations and being close to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. A solid hit up the middle was that she only made five years of her taxes publicly available, for three hours, in her office.

Upside of performance: Cuomo did not lose his cool when he started to get hit. He never yelled at Nixon, and he was able to make a clear case that he has governed a complex state competently, and passed what progressive, pragmatic legislation was possible.In terms of his ability to hit on the national stage, the things the socialist Democrat Nixon threw at him were easily fielded. He can’t win at the national level supporting the signs Nixon accused him of shaking off: granting public-employee union members the right to strike, an immediate shift to single-payer health care, rent control for all, driver’s licenses for people here illegally and boosting public pensions. He finished strong.

Downside of performance: While Cuomo didn’t blow up, he did at times appear rattled and flat. He flailed talking about philosophy, even as he looked competent on governance.

Big league potential: Cuomo is still a project player. He needs a faster move when pitchers throw at his head and relievers unfurl a smoking fastball. And, of course, he’d gave to be willing to accept a call-up.