Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
On Week of Obama's Gay Marriage Switch, Who Fared Better—Cuomo or Christie?
Friday, May 11, 2012
Both rock stars in their own right, both trying to right their states' ships, and both building serious momentum for a potential presidential run. Every Friday, we'll look at whose week will look better on a résumé come 2016.
Check out last week's results here.
President Obama validated Andrew Cuomo's existence on Tuesday when he appeared with Governor Gumby at a microchip manufacturing plant in Albany.
It's no small thing for the President of the United States to make a campaign stop at a plant championed by the governor last fall. WNYC's Colby Hamilton reports that Obama was "landing in a spot that Cuomo himself has used to highlight his economic policy priorities."
Having a fan in the White House certainly won't hurt the governor's agenda for the state, nor his potential (yet downplayed) ambitions to relocate from Albany to Washington.
"Cuomo plays chess," SUNY New Paltz professor Gerald Benjamin told Hamilton. "He’s looking forward and this validation is a resource that he can claim and he can use: Not only am I claiming that I was successful in the first two legislative sessions; here’s the President of the United State laying hands on and this relationship’s important."
- Verdict: +2
Out in front on gay marriage
The Obama-Cuomo lovefest continued on Wednesday when the president announced his support for same-sex marriage.
Here's an instance where Cuomo was out ahead of Obama; New York legalized same-sex marriage last summer, due in no small part to the governor's influence. When Obama announced his support on Wednesday, Cuomo was quick to clap.
"I applaud the president's courage. I believe it will be respected by the people of this country," Cuomo said in a press conference.
Cuomo's record on same-sex marriage was already going to help him in a Democratic primary. But much like Obama's visit to the microchip plant, his newfound approval of same-sex marriage amounts to another validation of the governor's policies.
By 2016, one can imagine that supporting same-sex marriage will be a prerequisite for securing the Democratic nomination — it bodes well for Cuomo that party leadership pivoted toward him, and not the other way around.
- Verdict: +2
Not 'evolving' with POTUS
On the other side of the Hudson River, Chris Christie wasn't as enthusiastic about President Obama's same-sex marriage "evolution."
"My position is really clear on it," Christie said, speaking at a town hall in Somerset County. "It's not going to change. I just do not believe that marriage should be between anyone but a man and a woman."
In February Governor Christie vetoed a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the state. Christie has said he still supports civil unions for gay couples, but won't go so far as to support marriage.
Christie says he's not going to change his mind, but who can predict what this debate will look like in four years? While Republican voters may still require opposition to same-sex marriage as part of their purity test for candidates, recent trends show the general electorate moving in the opposite direction from the party's base — and toward the position of someone like, say, Andrew Cuomo.
- Verdict: 0
Veto for health exchange
This was Christie's week to be the polar opposite of Andrew Cuomo, it seems.
Not only did Christie take the opposite line on gay marriage; the New Jersey Governor this week also vetoed a proposed health exchange for the state required by the Affordable Care Act. Governor Cuomo established a similar health exchange for New York last month.
“The very constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is cloaked in uncertainty, as both the individual mandate to procure health insurance as well as the jurisdictional mandate to establish an exchange may not survive scrutiny by the Supreme Court,” the governor explained in his veto message. “Because it is not known whether the Affordable Care Act will remain, in whole or in part, it would be imprudent for New Jersey to create an exchange at this moment in time before critical threshold issues are decided with finality by the Court.”
Politically, with regard to the demands of his own party, Christie didn't really have a choice. The optics of vetoing anything related to "Obamacare" are preferable to accepting anything related to "Obamacare." Regardless of the fate of the health care law, having fought against it can't hurt Christie's appeal to Republicans.
- Verdict: +1