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Political Play of the Week

Let a political connection be your umbrella?

New York state Comptroller Carl McCall will face popular two-term Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, in the fall.
New York state Comptroller Carl McCall will face popular two-term Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, in the fall.  


By Bill Schneider

(CNN) -- New York respects clout. It respects politicians who have clout.

This week, a New York politician showed clout without even voicing an opinion. That's unusual -- for a New York Play of the Week.

It was all set up.

New York Democrats were supposed to nominate their first African-American candidate for governor this year -- New York State Comptroller Carl McCall.

Then Andrew Cuomo -- son of the former governor and member of former President Bill Clinton's Cabinet -- got into the race. The whole New York Democratic establishment -- including Sen. Chuck Schumer -- got behind McCall.

That put New York's other Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton, on the spot.

According to New York magazine's Michael Tomasky, "As the race wore on, pressure from black political leaders particularly mounted on her to make some gesture on behalf of Carl McCall, if not a formal endorsement."

What to do? The polls gave Sen. Clinton an opening. They showed Cuomo falling way behind.

Pressure grew for Cuomo to pull out.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Bill Clinton during a visit to the New York State Fair on Friday.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Bill Clinton during a visit to the New York State Fair on Friday.  

Last Friday. Sen. Clinton and her husband showed up at the New York State Fair.

Andrew Cuomo was at the fair, too. But somehow, the Clintons never managed to connect with him. Hmmm ...

Monday, Sen. Clinton was at the West Indian-American Day parade in Brooklyn. So was Carl McCall.

It was raining. The senator needed an umbrella. Somehow, she managed to connect with McCall.

McCall explains, "I think I had a very big umbrella, and Hillary Clinton wanted to be under my umbrella to be protected from the rain."

Cuomo got the message. The next day, he pulled out of the race, sparing his party a divisive primary.

Cuomo said, "If we were to now spend $2 million this week on an acrimonious campaign, we would only guarantee a bloody and broke Democratic nominee."

How bitter could it have gotten? Cuomo told a New York Times columnist, "I believe in my heart that if I did a negative ad I would have won.''

Andrew Cuomo, left, stood with former President Clinton shortly before announcing his withdrawal from the gubernatorial race in New York.
Andrew Cuomo, left, stood with former President Clinton shortly before announcing his withdrawal from the gubernatorial race in New York.  

A frustrated Cuomo added, "How could I go against Carl McCall? How could you do that? Don't you like black people? Aren't you a progressive? Aren't you a liberal? You young, arrogant S.O.B.''

Looks like the campaign ended just in time.

Tomasky observed, "This is the first race really in which [Hillary Clinton], as a sitting senator, could deliver an endorsement that carried a lot of weight and meant something."

Yes it did. It meant disaster was averted for the senator and her party.

It also meant the political Play of the Week.

And for the record, this is the first political Play of the Week accomplished through the skillful use of a strategic umbrella.



 
 
 
 


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