On April 26, New York’s Board of Elections announced the cancelation of the state’s presidential primary slated for the end of June. With just Biden still in the running, the decision would seem to be inconsequential.
That’s what New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo probably wants us to think.
The fact is that the cancellation means that Biden cannot add New York’s 274 delegates to his total of first-ballot commitments, making it harder for him to lock in a majority. Biden now has but 1,433 of the 1991 he needs for the nomination.
Given New York’s central role in showing other states how to cope with the virus, it is likely that they will follow suit and cancel their primaries as well.
Cuomo must hope they will, because, if they do, Biden may not be able to reach the magic number of first-ballot commitments.
If Biden’s campaign continues to falter with the candidate locked in his basement and only emerging in public for inarticulate, stumbling interviews, delegates may wonder what kind of a candidate he will be.
And should Tara Reade’s accusations gain broader coverage and the credibility they deserve, delegates may be searching for the eject button to rid themselves of a Biden nomination.
But if a first-ballot nomination is locked in by state primary results, the convention would be legally bound to choose Biden, virtually conceding the race to President Trump. If Biden is short of the first-ballot majority, delegates would be free to look elsewhere.
Did Cuomo deliberately cancel his home state primary to improve his chances? He vehemently denies it.
He says he’s not running and has no interest in the presidency. But he has yet to issue a Shermanesque denial (In 1884, General William Tecumseh Sherman famously said something along the lines of, “If nominated, I refuse to run. If elected, I will not serve.”)
Cuomo’s people note that the cancelation decision was made by the board of elections (appointed by the governor), not by Cuomo himself or by the legislature. But it is unlikely that so major a political decision would have been taken without his approval or prompting.
The New York primary was once delayed already until June 23. At the time, that was the last possible date. A primary for state and local offices will be held on that date.
So why cancel the presidential primary if the board had to go through the expense of a statewide primary anyway?
And, if voters will go to the polls for state and local primaries, what is the public health reason for canceling the presidential primary? The board says it was to simplify its administrative tasks and to minimize crowding at the polls, explanations that fall short of convincing.
The board took flack for its decision from Bernie Sanders, who stood to amass delegates, and from his supporters like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Why put up with the flack if not on orders from the governor?
Cuomo is deftly moving to exploit his national celebrity gained by his daily briefings that have been informative and objective and are universally praised. But his moment in the sun will end with the virus. Unless it wins him the Democratic nomination.
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