One of the most incredible consequences of the pandemic for US elections could give Andrew Cuomo a spot on the 2020 Democratic ticket.
“Almost certainly, it will be Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York,” Jim Fetzer, a philosophy professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, says of a potential Biden stand-in.
The former vice president has all but cemented the presidential nomination after his only remaining rival, Bernie Sanders, suspended his campaign with four months to go until the Democratic convention.
Pandemic lifts up Cuomo
However, the world’s biggest public health crisis in a century has stolen the spotlight from the White House race and put it on the executive branch. And while Cuomo, a three-term New York governor, is leading the state’s response to COVID-19, Joe Biden was forced to cancel campaign events and fundraisers and has generally kept a low profile.
Cuomo saw his popularity soar to a 7-year high with his daily press briefings and criticism of the federal government’s handling of the virus. A poll in late March found that a whopping 87 percent of New Yorkers approve of his handling of the situation, including 70 percent among Republicans.
“Cuomo is now getting massive coverage from left-leaning networks and is the odds-on betting choice,” Fetzer says.
On the contrary, Joe Biden’s most visible accomplishment during the pandemic was losing track of a teleprompter while giving a speech from his house.
According to a WPAi survey conducted last week, as many as 56 percent of Democratic voters prefer Cuomo over Biden, and the New York governor is ahead of the former vice president by double digits when it comes in terms of public approval of their coronavirus response.
A Rasmussen poll of likely Democratic voters showed 46 percent of support for Biden’s nomination and 45 percent for Cuomo, who is not even in the race. A survey of all likely voters has them tied at 38 percent each.
The governor himself has shot down rumours of becoming a late entry into this year’s race.
“Joe Biden is a personal friend of mine, I’ve worked with him, he’s been a great friend to this state,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “I support him. I have for years. And he’s going to be, I believe, an excellent Democratic candidate and a leader.”
The Biden deterioration
Many critics, including within the Democratic party, have expressed uncertainty about Biden’s mental lucidness due to a flow of confusing slip-ups from the 77-year-old candidate.
This week, the press secretary for the Sanders campaign suggested that the Democratic establishment has two options: either replace Joe Biden as the party nominee or lose to Donald Trump again in November.
Fetzer believes that the Democrats initially didn’t have a plan to replace Biden, but he “deteriorated more rapidly than expected.”
A poll released on 31 March showed that Biden has slightly extended his lead over Trump in the national head-to-head match-up despite being sidelined during the crisis as the US economy plummeted, unemployment rate skyrocketed and concerns grew over the government’s response to the situation.
Yet still, his relative invisibility as of late might prompt Democrats to opt for someone more popular, believes Mitchell Feierstein, a hedge-fund manager and CEO of the Glacier Environmental Fund.
“Poor Joe Biden, he is not up to the task of leading a country when he is unable to read a teleprompter for 2-minutes,” he quips, predicting that there is a “75% chance Biden is out”.
Michelle, ma belle
Feierstein floats the unlikely option that has been around for a while: President Barack Obama’s spouse.
“The media have kept Michelle Obama warm for the past two years, and Obama is expected,” he says. “She is the best bet – and they did not want her in the vetting process with the other candidates, perfect avoidance. Obama has been set up the entire time and will be the perfect sell to a dumbed-down America.”
The Obamas have deliberately stayed out of the 2020 race, although the former president reportedly quietly played a role in uniting the moderate wing of the party around Joe Biden at a critical moment right before the Super Tuesday primaries.
Obama’s former campaign manager, Jim Messina, has theorised that Sanders’s withdrawal will allow Barack and Michelle to enter the fray. “This move by Bernie Sanders allows the two big powers in the Democratic party, Barack and in some ways as importantly Michelle Obama, to now come off the sidelines and get involved,” Messina told MSNBC on Wednesday.
“I mean, people forget that Michelle Obama is the most popular political figure in America by far. Having Barack and Michelle Obama on the trail talking to both the base and the swing voters.”
Mrs Obama, who was named America's most admired woman for two years in a row, has so far kept mum on her presidential prospects.