As governor, can Donald Trump Jr. make New York great again?
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Few Americans noticed when Andrew Cuomo, the 56th Governor of New York State, essentially launched his 2020 presidential bid on January 3rd at LaGuardia Community College in Queens, the borough of his birth.  The speech was billed as a State of the State address but it was clearly a transparent effort to broaden his exposure to an audience west of the Appalachian Mountain range and south of the Verrazano Bridge.

Yet before he can cast himself as the savior of liberal Democrats by running to be the 46th president, Cuomo has a hurdle to overcome: Reelection to the job he currently has in 2018.

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Next year’s contest for New York state’s chief executive could provide a tipping point for lessons learned in 2016 when Democrats overplayed their hand and Republicans played their cards right.  

 

If the NYS GOP want to win the 2018 governor’s race, however, stalwarts of party could take into account a handful of considerations to realize that Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDems win from coast to coast Falwell after Gillespie loss: 'DC should annex' Northern Virginia Dems see gains in Virginia's House of Delegates MORE, Jr., might be the candidate they are looking for:

1.  Be Different

The GOP needs to field an unconventional candidate that is not connected to the sour taste many New Yorkers have for the current political element in either party.  

At 39 years old, Donald, Jr., would be a generation younger than his would-be rival.  The ideal candidate would employ an outsider status and lack of political experience as assets, effortlessly turning Cuomo’s resume and family history in politics into liabilities.   

Hillary didn’t lose the electoral vote because she wasn't liberal enough.  She lost because she was too establishment, too cautious and too slippery.  Similarly, Cuomo, the eldest son of a three-term NY governor who also served as HUD secretary and state attorney general, might also have a hard time portraying himself as anything other than the embodiment of the status quo.

2. Find a New Republican Base

Trump, Jr., could speak the language of downstate Democrats by being born and raised in the area and to upstate Republicans by simply not being Cuomo.  A smart strategy would be to apply statewide over the next year the strategy his father used to win the national election last year: Reach out to the blue collar/union workers Democrats have taken for granted and disaffected, promise to drain the swamp 363 miles north of Washington D.C. and resist appearing to cater to party and/or financial influence.

3.  Tilt at Windmills

A Siena Research Institute poll from February showed Gov. Cuomo with an enviable 60 percent favorability.  In spite of the polling — what good Republican trusts polling today anyway? — the standard-bearer of the Republican Party must be willing to charge into the headwinds of a seemingly-unwinnable race.  A side benefit will be that fielding a serious and credible challenger for this NY gubernatorial race would put Democrats on notice that Republicans won’t be writing off traditionally and reliably blue territory in the near future

4.  Become Picasso

A common tactic of the Republicans is to paint their opponents as tax-and-spend liberals looking to divide and alienate our fellow citizens.  This will not require a lot of paint with Governor Cuomo.  New Yorkers that have already fled the state for environmentally and financially greener pastures — and those whose plans will be hastened by Governor Cuomo’s added expense to their tax bills — know better than to think Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersWorld leaders reach agreement on trade deal without United States: report Sanders on Brazile revelations: DNC needs ‘far more transparency’ Sen. Warren sold out the DNC MORE 2.0 is the future of revitalizing a state that desperately needs revitalization.

 Republicans should be explaining that real leadership is not spending money we don’t have or making promises that will financially burden future generations of New Yorkers.

5.  Make Cuomo Too Liberal (Even for NY)…

The state commander-in-chief’s promotion to the nation’s commander-in-chief could be put on permanent hold if the GOP properly exploits the Bernie Sanders connection our current governor is endeavoring to cement.  Last year’s candidacy of the admitted Democratic Socialist — two words Cuomo is too careful to utter — made the word “free” not only a vision for Democrats but a requirement.

6.  … And Donald, Jr., Conservative Enough (Even for NY)

The power elite of the state will no doubt raise the question as to whether Donald Trump, Jr. is a real conservative.  The jury is out on the answer to this query.  But the eldest son of the president is something most NY Republicans are not: He is someone that could win.  Hoping for a candidate to run with the bona fides to check every box that aligns with the conservative party hasn't produced much in recent years in New York, a state where every statewide elected official is a Democrat.

7.  Stress Cuomo’s "All-About-Me" Style

A hurdle for Andrew Cuomo will be his blind ambition.  His high-profile feud with NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio — a fellow Democrat — raises serious questions about an ability to bring his own party together let alone run on a platform of national unity.  For a party that has made a cottage industry clamoring about President Trump’s divisive political style, Democratic voters might balk at the hypocrisy in reelecting and then nominating for president a man whose alienation of political opponents, regardless of party affiliation, is a natural part of his DNA.

8.  First Your Guns…

“New York has set the example,” Cuomo said following the passage of the NYSAFE Act’s regulation of firearms in 2013.  Many gun owners — outside of the NYC/Buffalo/Syracuse regions — continue to see the measure as a power grab by Cuomo to bolster his standing with the left at the expense of civil liberties.  Don Jr. should be reiterating a position that defends lawful gun owners who feel under siege by our current governor.

9. Drain the Swamp

The biggest obstacle to a Cuomo bid isn't a Republican challenger.  It’s the lack of real reform in Albany and the governor turning a blind eye to corruption — not to mention shuttering the Moreland Commission — in the most corrupt legislature in the nation.  The swamp in Washington, D.C., the current president ran against in 2016 looks like a country club compared to the ethical morass in Albany.  The GOP candidate must focus on demolishing the twisted normalcy of our state capital—which runs through the executive branch as well.

10. Make it Personal … Because it is

The GOP must find a candidate that could make the race not just an election between two parties but a visceral and transparently personal contest.  The 2018 governor’s race should become a referendum on the future of our state and its role in the national dialogue.  It would be difficult to envision a more distinctive race — and a more monumentally engaging story — than the president’s son running in 2018 to lead New York from despair while simultaneously defeating a potential challenger to his father in 2020.  Americans responded to the call for Donald Trump to, in his words, make the nation great again.  New York Republicans would be wise to consider if his son could be the candidate to do the same for our state.

Donald Trump, Jr., winning in the Empire State in 2018 would be an uphill climb under the best circumstances.  Despite the challenge, state Republicans might be wise to bet on the Trump brand — even when the odds and an incumbent opponent with presidential ambitions are stacked against him.

James Coll is an adjunct professor of American and Constitutional history at Hofstra University and the founder of ChangeNYS.org, a not-for-profit dedicated to promoting civic education in New York State.  He lives in Seaford.


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