General Campaign Season Kick Off: What's Ahead

With the party primaries receding in the rearview mirror, political candidates have their eyes fixed on the six week road to November. As the first full week of general election campaigning gets underway, WNYC’s Bob Hennelly spoke with Soterios Johnson about what lies ahead.

Andrew Cuomo had what he billed a "big tent" campaign event in Manhattan yesterday. That's a phrase you often here from Republicans to describe their party. What was the event, and is it too soon to get a sense of Cuomo's strategy in dealing with Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino?

HENNELLY: What we do see is that he was really using the opportunity of this event to announce his co-chairs for the campaign. Congresswoman Nydia Valazquez, former state republican chair Pat Barrett -- and that's very important -- and Bill Thompson, the former city comptroller and the gentleman who ran against mayor Bloomberg -- and did a better job than most people expected in that campaign. So he's trying to set a bi-partisan tone and, most important, stay above the fray.

Do we have a sense of Carl Paladino's approach now that he has the Republican nomination?

HENNELLY: Well, I think it's the same approach that seemed to work for him so successfully during the primaries. The New York Times has some details this morning about a letter that Paladino has written to Cuomo challenging Cuomo to a debate, and it's written in street rumble rhetoric. You know, get away from your daddy's coattails. Come on out and debate like a man. So it's really a taunting invitation. What you see here is the response on behalf of Cuomo is from Democratic chair Jay Jacobs, who said Attorney General Cuomo had already agreed to the idea in principle of meeting in a debate. And we saw earlier that it was Governor David Paterson who responded to Paladino's taunts earlier in the week.

Any Republican running for statewide office needs to pull over conservative Democrats and Independents.  What are the prospects that Palaldino will actually draw enough people to his side to tip the scales?

HENNELLY: Well, the key here is what is going to happen with former Congressman Rick Lazio who did win the Conservative line on primary day. So we have to find out if he's going to make an active run. Also, Paladino has to continue to run an unconventional strategy that energizes people who don't normally turn out. So, to that degree, he's tapping into this national energy that's at the Tea Party and there's some kind of framework there to do that. For Cuomo, what he has to do is make it almost like a national election in the sense that he's got to get the Obama base that turned out in such huge numbers to give President Obama that big win. So, for Paladino, he's got to activate a base. So does Cuomo. But the difficulty for Cuomo is that, as the recession has dragged on, it's been much harder to try to turn around the economy. That Obama base, so far, hasn't shown up.

In the race for Attorney General, it's Democratic State Senator Eric Schneiderman against Republican Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan.  What can you tell us about the different visions of the office of Attorney General that these two men have?

HENNELLY: I think that you see in the case of Donovan, a Republican, he is trying to emphasize that he is going to take the fight for corruption in Albany to a new level, thus reminding people that Schneiderman has been a veteran legislator up in Albany. Of course, Schneiderman tries to counter that by saying that he was central to the expelling of Hiram Monserrate after he was judged guilty in charges related to assaulting his girlfriend. And Schneiderman now -- we'll see today I guess that he's going out to Brentwood, Long Island to discuss plans to crack down on crime, invoking the tragic gang-related shooting of a 13-year-old playing basketball. So, he is now trying to look like the kind of prosecutor that Dan Donovan's says he's already been for two terms.