Monday, September 15, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: A Cheat Sheet for Rob Astorino

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It's a scary roadmap for Andrew Cuomo: a little-known Democratic candidate for governor performs surprisingly well in a primary fight against a popular incumbent -- who then goes on to lose to a Republican challenger from Westchester in November in a big upset.

Cuomo saw his father follow this political trail in 1994, when State Senator George Pataki managed to upend the establishment and kick the governor out of office. Andrew Cuomo is determined not to repeat the mistakes of his father – and instead focus on his drubbing of another Westchester Republican, Andrew O'Rourke in 1986.

Meanwhile, Rob Astorino would be very foolish to think that Tuesday night's results mean very much for him in November. It's hard to imagine any of Zephyr Teachout's supporters getting excited about this Republican county executive from Westchester, let alone vote for him. The state's political climate and party registration have shifted dramatically over the last 20 years and a non-incumbent Republican hasn't won statewide since then. As Astorino prepares to appear on "Inside City Hall" tonight, here a few quick things he needs to do in the general election:

• Raise money. It's not easy when Republican donors across the country are already being asked for help in several key Senate races as well as other contests for governor while New Jersey Chris Christie isn't exactly heading up the marching band for your campaign as the head of the Republican Governors Association. But Cuomo is a buzzword and if you link him with Mayor de Blasio in some fundraising solicitations, maybe you'll hit silver, if not gold.

• Speaking of de Blasio, link him with the Governor as much as you can – outside of New York City. While the mayor's liberal agenda is selling pretty well in the five boroughs, it's likely a different story once you head upstate where people aren't buying it.

• While you're upstate, talk about the SAFE act. The governor's signature gun control bill is largely unpopular outside of the city and the suburbs. And for the supporters of gun control, point to the fact that it was so quickly rushed to the desks of lawmakers that it had to be amended twice because of mistakes in the legislation. "This isn't gun control, it's Cuomo control."

• Find a simple way to explain the governor's alleged meddling with his anti-corruption commission. It's easy to understand how Gov. Christie's aides shut down a bridge. Who's this Moreland guy?

• Hide or explain away some tough social positions. Being against gay marriage and abortion is political Kryptonite in New York City and its suburbs. While people don't care that much what their county executive thinks about Roe v. Wade, it's a very different story when it comes to a governor.

• Close the stature gap. Talk about what you've accomplished in Westchester – and also figure out a way to get the governor to debate you.

• Rattle Cuomo. While the governor is largely holding all of the cards, he and his supporters often play nervous. (Just look at some of his supporters' Twitter feeds!) Figure out a way to employ a political prop and get the governor to start angrily yelling at a large stuffed duck or a cardboard cutout of his father.

• Convince reporters you have a shot. This race has received very little media attention so far and the only way that's going to change is getting the ears of reporters and their bosses. Point to the (admittedly faulty) parallels between now and 1994 and Zephyr Teachout's strong showing this week.

• Pray.

(Next Monday, we'll look at Cuomo's list.) Excelsior!

And a quick note of sadness: It's the last day for NY1 Senior Political Producer Tim Farrell – who's moving to South Carolina. Tim has done a phenomenal job at the station and in the political unit. We're all going to miss him greatly, especially me. (But now we have someone to field produce our Lindsey Graham debate.) Good luck, Tim!

Bob Hardt

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