Could Cuomo Replace Biden?

Andrew Cuomo is the new Democratic darling. His response to the coronavirus outbreak in New York has received rave reviews from corporate media. Compared to President Donald Trump, Cuomo appears competent, honest, and empathetic. And as Democratic favorite and former Vice President Joe Biden has seemed to fade from the public eye, a bizarre rumor has begun floating around political circles:

Could Cuomo replace Biden atop the Democratic ticket?

The rumor is, of course, completely speculative. There’s no precedent for the presumptive Democratic nominee ceding his position and transferring delegates to a hand-selected replacement. But there was no precedent for delegate-winning candidates to drop out before Super Tuesday or a bungled Iowa caucus before 2020, either.

“I would say it’s a real possibility, but the quantitative measurement of that possibility is almost impossible to ascertain,” says journalist Ryan Cooper. “It depends most of all on Biden’s own attitude, and that’s something you can’t really know unless you’re party to conversations they might be having about that.”

The Democratic Party has changed several rules throughout the course of the primary. But sliding in an entirely new nominee—especially while Bernie Sanders remains in the race—might be too obvious for some to bear. It would likely have to be done at the Democratic National Convention, where Biden might be able to hand his delegates over to Cuomo (or some other pre-selected replacement) and stand aside. Dropping out any sooner would mean Biden’s statewide pledged delegates would go to Sanders, whose victory appears to be the only outcome the DNC is hellbent on preventing.

“The whole rule-bending aspect only comes into play when beating down the left,” Cooper says.

Still, Biden’s lackluster public presence, campaign streaming struggles, and seeming unwillingness to attack Trump have led some to believe he’s wilting under pressure. Cuomo, meanwhile, holds daily coronavirus briefings and appears unafraid to take Trump to task. It’s led to fawning media coverage, with Marie Claire writer Michelle Collins even facetiously referring to Cuomo as her “boyfriend.” Cuomo’s surpassed Sanders’ odds to win the Democratic nomination on political betting markets, while some apparel sellers have begun printing “I Heart Andrew” and “Cuomo for President” shirts.

Cuomo’s current political appeal isn’t terribly hard to understand. He’s a prominent Democrat who, unlike Bernie Sanders, the media seems eager to showcase and broadcast. And in Biden’s absence, he’s become the Democrats’ de facto Trump responder, speaking with the clarity many would hope to hear from the president himself. He’s exactly the kind of no-nonsense sounding person corporate media types love to fawn over in crisis situations.

“On the one hand, it’s traditional media power worship,” Cooper says of Cuomo’s uptick in popularity. “And on the other hand it’s the soft bigotry of low expectations, as George W. Bush would say. Cuomo didn’t start doing the macho leadership stuff until [Covid-19] was completely out of control [in New York].”

Indeed, Cuomo’s newfound darling status confounds some who closely follow politics or have covered him directly. The New York governor has had prominent struggles with the MTA, worked with New York Republicans to stifle progressive policies like bail reform, and has only recently come around to releasing prisoners from New York’s cramped, filthy correctional system amid rampant spread of Covid-19. And Cuomo absurdly believes landlords will pass mortgage relief efforts onto New York’s millions of renters.

But Cuomo’s warts hardly matter in comparison to Trump. Even Trump thinks he’d be a better opponent. What the #Resistance left desperately wants is someone to show the slightest bit of competence while standing up to the bully president. And until Biden proves he’s consistently capable of that, the Cuomo rumors will continue swirling, likely until 2024.