HEMPSTEAD – Andrew M. Cuomo delivered a blistering attack on the Trump administration Thursday while accepting his nomination for a third term as governor, accusing Washington of waging war on New York's middle class and calling for a rebuke of the Republican Party's "extreme conservative movement" at the polls.
Closing out a two-day Democratic State Convention at Hofstra University on Long Island, Cuomo called on his own party to recommit itself to the progressive principles he said serve as a bulwark against President Trump and his policies. He also scolded his party for failing to provide an alternative "to the fool's gold sold by Trump," an alternative that he now promises in his own 2018 campaign.
"The hard truth is that in the last presidential election, Donald Trump and the right wing did not win. It's that the Democratic Party lost," Cuomo said, "because we lost our connection with who we are... and the Democratic Party all across the country is still searching for its way.
"The middle class in this country that voted for Trump, didn't vote for Trump, they voted out of despair and desperation," he added. "They did it because they got tired of waiting for the Democratic Party."
Cuomo emerges from this adoring conclave buoyed by emotional speeches from two of the party's biggest names – former Vice President Joseph Biden and national Chairman Thomas Perez. Both told the convention that the governor has set the template in New York for party victories with his progressive agenda.
But Cuomo must still overcome an attack from the left in the September Democratic primary from actress-activist Cynthia Nixon, who was emailing rebuttals to his speech even while he was still talking.
"As Gov. Cuomo has said himself, he's run this state in a way that would make any Republican proud. And you don’t just have to take his word for it – Cuomo has been praised and supported by Republican leaders, including Gov. (Chris) Christie, for his conservative policies and politics," she said in one email blast, referring to the former New Jersey governor.
Cuomo must also take on Republican Marcus J. Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive nominated by a simultaneous GOP gathering in Manhattan who most certainly caught Cuomo's attention at Hofstra.
The governor never mentioned Molinaro by name, but made clear how his campaign will attack in the months ahead by linking the Republican to an unpopular president in most of blue New York.
"All he is, is a banner carrier for the extreme, conservative movement," Cuomo said of his opponent.
The convention, which also nominated Kathy Hochul for lieutenant governor, Thomas P. DiNapoli for comptroller, and Letitia James for attorney general, appeared to be totally in sync with the gubernatorial candidate despite the Nixon challenge that polls show to be growing.
Now he appears to be fashioning a campaign that will link Molinaro to Trump, especially in wavering areas like the Long Island suburbs and even Democratic Erie County. And while some say Cuomo may have been simply honing a national message for 2020, he seems to realize he must score big this year and appears to believe the anti-Trump message holds the key.
He lambasted Trump on immigration, tax policy, attitudes toward women and minorities, and gained his loudest cheers when he hit the president for attempting to take the country back to a time when "when labor was voiceless" in the United States."
And as he has for months, Cuomo lauded his policies that advanced same sex marriage, a $!5 minimum wage, tough gun safety laws and infrastructure development as the "progressive" policies demanded by New Yorkers and America as a whole.
He also rebuked a national GOP that has rejected moderate, "Rockefeller Republcans" and followed Trump's vision.
"They all drank the Trump, Ryan, McConnell Kool-Aid," he said, referring also to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate leader Mitch McConnell. "Everything we have accomplished in New York, everything, they oppose."
The governor gained plenty of big name support Thursday as he closed the convention and launched his campaign. Biden seemed especially enthusiastic about supporting Cuomo, reminiscing about the candidate's father – the late Gov. Mario M. Cuomo – and advancing his own case against Trump.
He delved deeply into Democratic philosophy, reminiscing about his family's own Democratic roots in Scranton and Delaware and emphasizing the desire for every-day Americans to just have a chance.
"Government exists to guarantee a level playing field," Biden said. "That's receding for an awful lot of Americans who just want a shot."
And he said the values of fairness and endless possibility are "under siege by this administration."
"This not your father's Republican administration," he said. "They are sending a message around the world that's damaging and that hurts us with this phony populism.
"Let the wealthy and powerful control, and blame everything on immigrants or women or the poor…," Biden added. "That's everything that Andrew is not."
Perez, meanwhile, assumed the role of party cheerleader as he fired up the delegates with tales of his Buffalo upbringing and his vision for a party about to challenge Trump's Republicans in the mid-term elections.
He especially targeted Republican Rep. Chris Collins.
"We've got to put Chris Collins out of work because Chris Collins and ethics are mutually exclusive terms," he said. "He was a terrible county executive and is a terrible member of Congress."