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Zeldin pushes back on Politico's questions about Biden

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1) speaks at a

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1) speaks at a press conference in Manorville on Jan. 25. Credit: Randee Daddona

Daily Point

Zeldin avoids making declarative statement that Biden won the election

Lee Zeldin landed a big platform Thursday morning with POLITICO's Playbook Virtual Interview, and he used it to discuss his not-yet- consummated exploration of a run for governor. He took the opportunity to sermonize to a national audience about his issues with bail reform, New York’s high cost of living, people leaving the state, and how some people are saying, "November 2022 is somewhat of a last stand, a last great opportunity to change the direction of our state."

The Shirley Republican was given plenty of space on these New York issues by his Politico interlocutors, Ryan Lizza and Tara Palmeri, but not so much when the interviewers turned the conversation to 2020 election results, a potent discussion given Zeldin’s Jan. 6 objection to the certification of Electoral College votes.

Lizza asked whether Zeldin could "unequivocally state" that Joe Biden won the presidential election.

"Yeah, Joe Biden is the president of the United States," Zeldin began, and as Lizza began laughing and crosstalking Zeldin continued underneath, "and that's how you become the president of the United States."

In that crosstalk, Zeldin’s response seems to have been an acknowledgement that Biden won, albeit in a roundabout way. But Lizza doubled down apparently in search of a more direct answer, asking "is or won" about Biden being president or winning the presidency.

"I ask it very intentionally that he won the presidential election," he said.

"Yes," Zeldin said with a brief pause, "and then I went on to continue an answer. If you’d like to give my answer for me, you can go ahead and do that."

The exchange continued in a combative manner from there, with the reporters parsing "is" and "win" and Zeldin saying "yes" in a sort of disembodied way and also wondering what the reporters' "agenda" was and complaining about the question being repeated.

It’s an awkward video clip of the kind that Zeldin typically has tried to avoid, but he turned it into some jousting with the ol’ liberal media. By the afternoon, Playbook PM’s newsletter headline opened "Zeldin gets testy." So everyone, in a sense, went home happy.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Uneven odds on Cuomo’s future

So what does the money say?

As Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s political challenges have mushroomed, his future has become a hot topic among gamblers looking to profit from the outcome. Cuomo faces an investigation overseen by state Attorney General Letitia James into allegations he sexually harassed former state employees. A separate impeachment investigation overseen by the State Assembly will delve into the sexual harassment claims, along with the potential mishandling of data on the COVID-19 deaths of nursing home residents who died in hospitals, and accusations that faulty bolts may have been used in the construction of the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.

With Republicans and some top Democrats calling for Cuomo’s resignation, an option he has flatly refused to consider, and other allies saying the investigation should play out, the prediction game around Cuomo has gotten hot.

So how does it look on the odds boards? It depends how you word the question.

On PredictIt, a wagering site in which you invest in potential outcomes for fractions of a dollar and win the whole $1 if you’re right, Cuomo is central to four wagers.

On the question of whether Cuomo will be in office at the end of the year, the price is 42 cents for yes and 58 cents for no, making him a significant underdog to survive.

But how might he leave if he does?

The least likely predicted exit is resignation by May 1, with "yes" at 24 cents and "no" at 76 cents.

Then there is impeachment by September 1, with "yes" at 37 cents and "no" at 63 cents, but it’s a tricky play because impeachment is a tricky term. The rules of that bet state he’s impeached if the "New York State Assembly, by simple majority, votes to impeach Governor Andrew Cuomo before the End Date listed below. Mr. Cuomo does not need to be tried, convicted or removed from office in order for this market to resolve as Yes."

So you could simultaneously win wagers that Cuomo stays in office and is impeached.

But what do the markets believe will happen long term?

Cuomo, at least before these scandals broke, said he planned to seek a fourth term in 2022, and he has not contradicted that.

But to the question, "Who will win the 2022 Democratic gubernatorial nomination," Cuomo is just the third choice at 20 cents. Topping the list is Letitia James at 33 cents, followed by Kathy Hochul at 25 cents.

Add into the equation the fact that Hochul is only really likely to get the nomination if she is the sitting governor when the party chooses a nominee, a la David Paterson, and you’ve got the makings of a fascinating longshot parlay, not to mention a decent Netflix miniseries.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Stop the blame

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Final Point

LaGuardia AirTrain project moving down the tracks

The LaGuardia Airport AirTrain is one stop closer to reality.

If all goes well, by the end of 2025, the $2 billion AirTrain would be able to take travelers from Willets Point in Queens to LaGuardia Airport, with connections for both subway and Long Island Rail Road passengers at the Citi Field stop.

The Federal Aviation Administration released its final environmental impact statement this week, paving the way for the final approval for the project and then for initial construction. Work would begin in June and the project could be operational by December of 2025.

The environmental review examined a host of alternatives, including extending the subway or choosing a different path. But the current plan, developed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was deemed superior, especially because it doesn’t use any private land and avoids residential neighborhoods.

Port Authority executive director Rick Cotton told The Point that the plan would prioritize making the transfer between the AirTrain, the LIRR and the subway system as simple and user-friendly as possible.

The final EIS acknowledges the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the "resulting decline in aviation and transit travel demand." But it also noted that it’s expected that air travel activity will rebound by the time the project opens.

Cotton said the AirTrain was critical to the broader effort to redevelop LaGuardia Airport.

"I’ve said all along I think it would be irresponsible and indefensible not to build the AirTrain," Cotton said. "It is the environmentally right thing to do. Easy and reliable access to the airport is an essential element of building a 21st century airport and reducing congestion and getting people out of their cars is a benefit to the surrounding neighborhood and indeed to the region."

Added Cotton: "The case for the AirTrain at LaGuardia is to me irrefutable."

The Port Authority also noted a host of community benefits that would accompany the AirTrain’s construction, including improvements to the Flushing Bay promenade and to local parks, like Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall