Democracy 2020 Digest: Cuomo tamps down political buzz, says he won’t take ‘the bait’

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is making it clear he’s “not engaging” with President Trump when it comes to politics and insisted that he’s not “running for president” in 2020 — despite the chatter.

The three-term governor of the state hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic made the comments hours after President Trump – in an appearance on “Fox and Friends” – said, “I wouldn’t mind running against Andrew.”

Cuomo’s coronavirus press conferences have been televised on a daily basis live on all three major cable news networks, giving the three-term Democratic governor plenty of national and international attention. And he’s won bipartisan praise for his evenhanded and steady approach to combating the crisis, as he mixes in a healthy dose of empathy and shares personal stories.

CUOMO’S APPROVAL RATING SURGES AMID NY GUV’S CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE

Cuomo’s media blitz comes as former Vice President Joe Biden – the all-but-certain Democratic presidential nominee – has struggled to increase his media footprint that was quickly erased as the coronavirus outbreak wiped the White House race from the headlines and froze the Democratic nomination battle in place. Without any formal role currently in government, Biden has no direct role in combating the crisis and has been overshadowed both by Trump’s daily briefings as well as Cuomo’s media rise the past two weeks.

On Monday morning – soon after a new poll in New York State gave Cuomo an eyeball-popping 87 percent approval rating on how he’s steering his state’s response to the pandemic — Trump compared Cuomo to Biden, saying, “I think probably Andrew would be better” as a candidate.

Cuomo – at his daily briefing – didn’t take the bait.

“As far as the president’s comment about having a political contest with me, I am not engaging the president in politics,” he said. “My only goal is to engage the president in partnership. This is no time for politics. Lead by example. I am not going to get into a political dispute with the president. I’m not going to rise to the bait of a political challenge.”

And Cuomo added, “I’m not running for president. I was never running for president. I said from day one I wasn’t running for president. I’m not running for president now. I’m not playing politics.”

Cuomo’s message to the president was: “When you do good things for my state and you’re a good partner, I will be the first one to say you’re a good partner. And I have.”

But the governor — who’s tangled with the president the past couple of weeks over a lack of federal assistance first for testing and then for ventilators desperately needed by hospitals for coronavirus patients to help them to breathe – added that “if I believe that New York is not being served … I will say that too.”

He highlighted that while he doesn’t shy away from a political fight, “I’m not going to engage in politics, not because I’m unwilling to tangle, but because I think it’s inappropriate and I think it’s counterproductive and I think it’s anti-America. Forgot the politics. Forget the politics, we have a national crisis. We are at war. There is no politics. The is no red and blue. It’s red, white and blue.”

Biden on Trump’s criticism: ‘It’s bravado’

The president took a bunch of jabs at Biden during his appearance on “Fox and Friends.”

Apparently questioning Biden’s mental fitness, Trump said, “I personally don’t think Joe Biden’s capable.”

Biden – in an interview hours later on MSNBC — responded that the attack by the president “doesn’t warrant a response. It’s bravado. It’s a bunch of malarkey as they say in my family.”

And disputing Trump’s claim that Biden’s presidential campaign was putting out statements without the knowledge of the former vice president, Biden shot back that “there’s nothing that goes out in my name that I don’t see.”

And he urged Trump to “step up and do your job, stop campaigning.”

Biden once again pleaded, “The president has to move more rapidly” in getting needed supplies to the hardest hit states.

“He has to use the Defense Production Act much more aggressively, including not just ventilators, but getting gloves, masks, shields, gowns, etcetera,” Biden said as he pointed to the emergency powers a president can invoke and implement to force private industry to produce goods needed in a time of crisis. “The president has to surge more equipment to New York other places that are clearly in distress.”

The former vice president also chided Trump for his criticism of Democratic governors who’ve urged the federal government to increase supplies to their hard hit states.

“We don’t need the kind of talk the president is using. In fact the president has to stop the belittling of the governors with whom he disagrees,” Biden urged.

Asked what he thought the president and his administration were doing correct in steering the federal government’s coronavirus response, Biden said, “What they’re doing right is letting Dr. Fauci speak more often. He’s a truth teller.”

Anthony Fauci, who’s served as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for three and a half decades, has been nearly universally praised for his advice and counsel in helping the Trump White House combat the coronavirus.

Biden briefly stumbled during his first answer in the MSNBC interview, which was quickly picked up on Twitter. Republican National Committee rapid response director Steve Guest – in an email highlighting the Twitter traffic — slammed Biden for “floundering.”

Warren says the ‘fight goes on’

Sen. Elizabeth Warren appears to be reactivating her Senate reelection committee.

The progressive champion — who suspended her Democratic presidential nomination campaign earlier this month after poor showings in the primaries and caucuses including in her home state of Massachusetts – sent an email to supporters nationwide on Sunday emphasizing that even though she’s no longer running for the White House, the “fight goes on.”

The senator announced “Warren Democrats,” which looks to be a new iteration of her old Senate reelection committee.

She added that the committee ”will not only support my reelection campaign for Senate, but will also support other Democratic candidates who share our vision, mobilize people to support those candidates and our ideas, and continue to build the grassroots movement that you’ve started.”

Warren was overwhelming reelected to the Senate in 2018 and isn’t up for reelection until 2024.

Getting ready for the fall Senate battle

The top outside group backing Democratic senators and Senate candidates in the 2020 election says it’s reserving nearly $70 million in TV advertising time this autumn in five key races.

Senate Majority PAC – in announcing on Monday its first round of reservations for the fall campaign – is pouring its money into North Carolina ($25.6 million) Arizona ($15.7m),  Iowa ($13.1m), Maine ($9.6m), and Colorado ($5.2m). Those states all have Republican incumbents who face challenging reelection battles this year.

“Our offensive strategy in 2020 is paying off, as Democrats continue to expand the Senate battlefield,” Senate Majority PAC president J.B. Poersch touted. “Our massive early investment is a sign of things to come as we prepare to compete deep into the map in our bid to retake the Senate majority.”

The Republicans currently hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate. Thirty-five seats are up for grabs this year, with 23 held by the GOP. Democrats will need a pick up of three or four seats to regain the majority – depending on the results of the presidential election.