In a Quinnipiac University poll released on Valentine’s Day, New Yorkers weren’t showing much love for the potential presidential ambitions of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. While a plurality of New Yorkers approve of these elected officials, most voters in the state do not want to see any of the three running for president.
But the good news – or at least, less bad news – for the ambitious politicians is that prospective presidential candidates often face such resistance from their home-state constituents.
In the new Quinnipiac poll, Cuomo has a job approval rating of 47 percent, with 37 percent disapproving of his job performance, but 63 percent of New York voters do not want Cuomo to run for president in 2020.
Gillibrand has a job approval rating of 52 percent, with 27 percent disapproving, but 58 percent of voters are opposed to the senator launching a presidential campaign.
Statewide, de Blasio’s potential presidential bid is the least popular, with 78 percent saying that he should not run in 2020. The mayor’s approval rating is 42 percent across the state, with 42 percent disapproving of his job performance.
But Gillibrand, Cuomo and de Blasio aren't unique. For example, a May 2017 Quinnipiac University poll found that the job approval rating for U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, considered to be a 2020 presidential contender, was 57 percent in his state, with 33 percent disapproving, but 54 percent of voters still did not want him to run for president.
Similarly, a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies Poll released in September of 2017 found that U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, a charismatic progressive who has elevated her national profile during her first Senate term, had an approval rating of 52 percent among California voters, with 29 percent disapproving. However, 49 percent believed that she should remain in the Senate instead of running for president in 2020.
Past presidential aspirants have faced a similar conundrum. In an October 2011 Quinnipiac poll, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had a 58 percent approval rating. However, when asked if voters agreed with Christie’s decision not to run for president in 2012, 84 percent of New Jersey voters said they approved of his choice. In another Quinnipiac poll in December of 2014, there were more Garden State voters opposed to a Christie presidential bid (50 percent) than those who had an unfavorable view of his performance (47 percent).
Christie was also a Republican in a blue state, but even a popular Democratic lawmaker such as then-Sen. Hillary Clinton didn't initially garner strong support for a potential presidential bid in her home state of New York.
A Quinnipiac poll published in May of 2005 found that Clinton, who at the time was gearing up for her reelection campaign as senator, had a job approval rating of 65 percent among New York voters, but 51 percent of voters said that they did not want her to run for president. Clinton did not ultimately become the Democratic nominee in 2008, although she won the New York presidential primary that year. She did go on to win the Democratic nomination and her state in 2016.
Early home state ambivalence doesn’t necessarily hurt a presidential candidate – just ask President Donald Trump. When it appeared as if the businessman might run for governor against Cuomo in 2014, Quinnipiac released a poll which found that only 27 percent of New Yorkers, and 46 percent of New York Republicans, had a favorable opinion of Trump. In a hypothetical matchup against Cuomo, Trump would have been defeated, with only 26 percent of New Yorkers saying they would vote for him, according to the poll.
In a March 2016 poll, before the New York primaries, Trump’s favorability rating was slightly higher, with 30 percent of New Yorkers and 68 percent of Republicans having a favorable opinion of him. In this poll, a third of New Yorkers said they would vote for him in a race against Clinton. In the 2016 election, Trump lost New York, and he lost the national popular vote as well.
Even though New York voters don’t seem to want elected officials to seek the White House, they do like their incumbents in their current posts, perhaps reflecting a desire to keep popular representatives serving closer to home. De Blasio won reelection by a wide margin in November. In Wednesday’s poll, 50 percent of voters said they would be inclined to vote for Cuomo for reelection as governor, and 55 percent would reelect Gillibrand.
Siena College pollster Steve Greenberg said it may just be too early to tell what will happen in 2020, or which candidate will be preferred.
“We are three years away from a presidential election,” he said about polling on the 2020 race. “Voters are really going to be seeing as we get closer to the election what the field looks like, and then they may or may not feel differently.”
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