Tonawanda News

January 12, 2014

DUVALL: Christie and Cuomo a study in contrasts

By Eric DuVall
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — New York and New Jersey share many things: A couple football teams, one of the world’s largest metropolitan centers, a reputation for rather pushy residents. 

The governors of these two states share almost nothing in common.

We’ll start with Chris Christie, the bellicose Jersey guy who’s been derisively described as the second most important Boss from the Garden State.

His administration’s monstrously stupid effort to tie up traffic to exact political retribution against a small-time mayor who wouldn’t endorse Christie’s re-election campaign is the epitome of childish. 

Did Christie’s team — we assume, for now, the governor isn’t so dumb as to go on TV howling he knew nothing of the plot if he actually did — really think no one would notice a massive four-day traffic jam on the world’s busiest bridge? Did they think no one would ask the obvious question: How come those lanes are closed for no reason?

Their answer when the inevitable questions were asked: We were doing a traffic study and it determined when we close lanes traffic backs up.

Snookie and J-Woww could have come up with a better answer than that.

Christie’s long-winded mea culpa was the stuff of political legend. He talked for nearly two hours and somehow by the end of it seemed to imply we should feel bad for him because he was the guy who got lied to — “betrayed,” to use his word.

Bill Clinton would be proud.

Perhaps my favorite part, though, was when he declared “I am not a bully.” 

Folks, anytime a politician makes a direct statement denying a personality trait the opposite is pretty much always true. (To wit: “I am not a crook.” “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” “I’m a decider.”)

Then there’s the Empire State, where our guy, Andrew Cuomo, is assiduously courting every voter in the state with some kind of plan — tax cuts for Republicans, a multi-billion education bond proposal for the teachers’ unions, gun control and gay marriage for the liberals. It’s how governors build a national profile as a pragmatic leader who’s willing to work with friends and enemies alike.

On balance, Cuomo has been the state’s most effective governor in a very long time. He’s got political skill and a keen sense of how to persuade us he’s doing a whole lot of stuff. (A billion dollars for Buffalo? Wow!)

There’s a fine line between the idealistic take that Cuomo really is an advocate for better government and the cynic’s take he’s just building a resume to become president one day.

Either way, it’s a pleasant change that it’s some other state’s governor standing before a bank of cameras begging for forgiveness. New York voters have got the sackcloth-and-ashes routine down pat by now.

Political chatterers have long speculated both men harbor presidential ambitions. Christie almost certainly does, though how his brash style plays in docile Iowa and buttoned-up New Hampshire remains to be seen.

Cuomo, of course, has a Hillary problem. If she runs, she wins the nomination hands down. And does anyone really think she isn’t going to run?

His best bet is to keep doing what he’s doing. Cuomo has very cagily used his time in Albany to position himself as a pol in Hillary’s image — a tough, pragmatic, results-oriented, hard-working, centrist politician who appeals to the party base. In other words, a perfect VP nominee. 

Christie faces a real fight — probably a losing one — against extremely conservative tea party primary voters deeply skeptical of his blue state background.

Cuomo could find himself on a national ticket without ever having to run.

Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact him at eric.duvall@tonawanda-news.com or follow him on Twitter, @EricRDuVall.