Election Experts Don't See Cuomo Getting Large Write-In Vote
SIXTY-TWO men and women are officially running for president in today's New Hampshire primary, but many voters would like to see at least one more name on the ballot: Gov. Mario Cuomo of New York.
During the past five days, supporters of Governor Cuomo spent an estimated $20,000 to $25,000 for TV and radio advertising to convince voters to write his name onto the ballot today.
Don Rose, political director for the Chicago-based National Draft Cuomo for President Committee, hopes to get 15 percent of the vote for the governor - a goal that analysts say is probably too high.
Mr. Rose, who created eye-catching TV ads for the Cuomo write-in campaign, says the committee hopes for at least enough votes to win one delegate to the national Democratic convention. He says that will require the governor's name to be written onto at least 10 percent of today's Democratic ballots.
Cuomo takes a hands-off attitude toward Rose's effort, but he continues to tantalize the nation's voters.
"I regret I'm not able to run, and I regret that I'm not able to be with the people of New Hampshire right now," he told a wire-service reporter on Sunday.
The governor says New York state's budget problems make it impossible to spend time campaigning. "If I had a budget," he says, "I would be campaigning on the stump right now."
Political analyst William Schneider says that despite Cuomo's apparent popularity in New Hampshire, he expects the governor's vote here to be small.
Voters think Cuomo would be an effective candidate, Mr. Schneider says, but they ask: "Why isn't he campaigning?"
Voters here take their primary very seriously, and resent Cuomo's failure to campaign, Schneider says.
Even so, the last-minute advertising blitz for Cuomo is being watched nervously by the other major Democratic candidates. All of them could be hurt by it.
Cuomo seems to draw from the same political well as former Sen. Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts, the front-runner here. A strong Cuomo vote could knock down Mr. Tsongas's totals.
Also, if Cuomo runs strongly he could embarrass, and even defeat, some of the other major Democrats, such as Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, and former Gov. Jerry Brown of California. They would have a difficult time explaining why a candidate who didn't even visit New Hampshire could beat them.
But experts doubt Cuomo's supporters will be thrilled with today's vote. R. Kelly Myers, associate director of the Institute for Policy and Social Science Research at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, says voters today will be confronted with a huge list of candidates, and must write in Cuomo's name with no prompting. It is rare that very many voters bother to write in a candidate's name.
"I don't see a big draft movement for Cuomo here," Professor Myers says. "Cuomo has dragged his feet far too long."
Rose's TV ad cites the national recession as the major reason to vote for Cuomo. Using a split screen, it shows Cuomo speaking on one side, while on the other side the letters "M-a-r-i-o" and "C-u-o-m-o" slowly appear, indicating a write-in vote.
In the ad, Cuomo says: "We are in a recession that is going to be worse than anything you've seen in 50 years.... We are absolutely going down the wrong road."
Though Cuomo faces an uphill climb here today, previous write-in candidates have occasionally scored well.
In 1964, Henry Cabot Lodge got 33,077 write-in votes to defeat Barry Goldwater in the Republican primary.
President Lyndon Johnson also won his primary with write-in votes in 1968 against antiwar Sen. Eugene McCarthy, though his narrow margin was insufficient to avoid embarrassment.
Laurence Radway, a former Democratic Party chairman in New Hampshire, says the impact of the possible write-in for Cuomo isn't easy to measure, particularly if he scores about 6 percent, as polls predict.
On the other hand, Dr. Radway says that if Cuomo gets as little as 3 percent, the governor will have no impact. But if he gets 15 percent, as Rose hopes, "then we've got a new ball game, and Cuomo and others will take the effort to get him into the campaign seriously."