Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee with a healthy delegate lead over Bernie Sanders, but his tendency towards gaffes and concerns about his mental state still make many Democrats uneasy about his candidacy. With Bernie Sanders all but vanquished and rejected by the Democratic Party, none of the other candidates would be an obvious choice for a replacement nominee if Biden falters. However, some Democrats are looking to New York’s governor as a potential stand-in if the former vice president can’t go the distance.
Since the virus outbreak, Biden has largely been out of the public eye save for video addresses which have not gone smoothly. Biden’s delivery was characterized by slurred words and flubs even though he was reading from a teleprompter.
Into the valley of Democratic angst rode Andrew Cuomo. The New York governor’s daily press briefings and other media appearances about the Coronavirus pandemic have made him a household name. His performance before the national cameras projects a competence and assurance that Joe Biden lacks.
Cuomo is also boosted by his apparent effectiveness in handling the COVID-19 crisis. New York has so far been the hardest hit area with about 60 percent of US Coronavirus cases concentrated in the area. Both hospitals and morgues are filling up in New York City as refrigerated trucks are being pressed into service to store the bodies of Coronavirus victims.
Nevertheless, Gov. Cuomo has projected strong leadership despite the extent of the crisis compared with President Trump’s inconsistent and often inaccurate messaging. Cuomo has taken strong actions to close businesses, find medical equipment for his state, and communicated the strong, unequivocal message that New Yorkers – and Americans – need to limit social interactions to stem the spread of the disease.
While sympathetic to those in isolation, at one point Cuomo, who had brought his daughter, Cara, to the daily briefing, talked about the upside of being forced to stay home, saying, “The last thing you want, to be in Cara’s position is to hang out with the old man.. listen to bad dad jokes” but to be “with her a few months .. what a beautiful gift that is.”
No matter how much Democrats might wish that Cuomo was a candidate, there might not be a path to the nomination. We are well into the primaries and he has no campaign, no delegates, and is not on the ballot. It would seem the obstacles are insurmountable.
However, as I wrote a few weeks ago, Coronavirus is a wild card for the election. The faltering economy has added to the uncertainty, as does the fact that both prospective party nominees are in the high-risk category for the virus. Many states have delayed their primaries, which likely means that it will take Biden longer to clinch the nomination. It could also mean that Democrats have more time to contract a case of buyer’s remorse. There could be an uprising before the Democratic convention in July.
In National Review, John Fund cites the example of Wendell Wilkie in 1940, who won the Republican nomination on the sixth ballot without having competed in a single primary. Whether such a feat would be possible with current rules and superdelegates is doubtful, but the upheaval of 2020 could mean that this year would be the most likely time for a dark horse candidate to win, if it is possible at all.
At this point, a Democratic nominee other than Joe Biden is a long shot, but 2020 has defied the odds on several scores already. If Democrats do decide against Biden at this late point in the process, Andrew Cuomo would be a likely choice.