Andrew Cuomo's Dilemma

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What's a Cuomo to do? He's found himself in a remarkable position in recent weeks. The New York State Attorney General is phenomenally popular in a state where Democrats are suffering and the governor, David Paterson, has been asked not to run by the president. If someone had told you in 2006 that Eliot Spitzer would be driven from office and Cuomo would be immensely popular, it would have been hard to believe. After all, he had a messy divorce from a Kennedy, and the former Housing and Urban Development Secretary had alienated the black community by running against Carl McCall for governor in 2002, who was considered to be next in line. Cuomo doesn't want to alienate African-American voters by challenging Paterson directly. But will the president's nudge have the effect of dissuading Paterson from running or moving black support away from the state's first African-American governor? So far, Patterson is digging in his heels, but so did Jim Bunning in Kentucky, the Republican senator who was prevailed upon to drop out of his reelection bid. If Patterson's money dries up, he may not have a choice. In the meantime, Cuomo can't be seen to be gleeful. But he's in a tough position. In a blue state, he's the most popular of pols but boxed in at a time when the Dems could easily lose the governorship and the Senate seat held by Kirsten Gillibrand.

The thing to watch for is black opinion in New York. Does Obama's abandonment of the governor affect it or not? And what happens to Paterson's money? It's a bizarre situation. About the only thing weirder would be a Spitzer comeback, and is that even so impossible to imagine? Yeah, probably.

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Matthew Cooper is a managing editor (White House) for National Journal.

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