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Bob McCarthy: Who's the progressive?

HEMPSTEAD – Over the past few weeks, Democrats around the country have pondered, discussed and debated.

How do we approach these midterm elections? Do we play it middle of the road, attempting to woo back some of the Donald Trump defectors? Or do we appeal to the base – the left leaners most likely to show up for a primary?

At the Democratic State Convention that just wrapped up on Long Island, the decision has been made. Outside of those TV ads starring "Flo," you won't hear the word "progressive" more than at a gathering of New York Democrats.

Indeed, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his surrogates used every opportunity during the two-day gathering at Hofstra University to emphasize the word. And they use their own party terms – gun safety, marriage equality, $15 minimum wage – to describe the accomplishments.

Cuomo has not shied away from any of that since veering from his early "moderate" days and now reveling in New York as "the progressive capital of the nation."

As about 30 reporters huddled around him in the Hofstra auditorium Wednesday, he summed up why he believes he overwhelmingly defeated at the convention even a progressive like Cynthia Nixon.

"We are inarguably the most progressive in the nation," he said. "No other state in America has accomplished what we have in paid family leave, a $15 minimum wage, gun safety, the women's equality agenda.

"These are national progressive firsts, and that's why you see over 95 percent (of the convention vote)," he added. "And when you're first in the nation, unless you're competing with heaven, you're doing pretty well."

All of this causes many in the party to ask Nixon: Why? Aren’t these all top accomplishments for the party as you see it?

"I'm not a protest candidate. I'm a viable candidate," said New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, shown marching May 1 with activists rallying against financial institutions' support of private prisons and immigrant detention centers in a May Day protest near Wall Street. (Getty Images)

The simple answer from the former "Sex and the City" actress is: More.

Nixon had no opportunity to address the convention a few days ago. So she got off a Long Island Railroad train at the Hempstead Transit Center to meet the waiting cameras and notebooks.

So far, polls show she is experiencing some success in waking up the party's most ardent factions by claiming the governor has abandoned the state's progressive principles. She now vows to petition her way onto the Democratic primary ballot in September.

"His progressive record is incredibly weak and that's why he's attacking," she said of Cuomo. "I'm not a protest candidate. I'm a viable candidate.

"I will not be scared out of the room," she added. "I'm here to tell voters they have an alternative."

The convention's entire tone – the atmosphere dominating state conclaves for several years now – prompted Ken Lovett of the Daily News to ask the governor if there is room in the party these days for anybody but progressives.

"Who are those people in there? Conservatives, Ken?" Cuomo responded, then delving into how the old Liberal Party became an "elitist" group that allowed the Democrats to beckon home its members. And he said Democrats maintain a "mainstream party" that remains strong in New York and around the country.

Cuomo and his fellow Democrats did not invent any of this this week. They see what candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders can accomplish and know that successful Democrats must embrace much of what the Vermonter says. And quite frankly, they are not aiming their efforts at Cattaraugus County (which the sergeant-at-arms Wednesday pronounced "Caturgus"), but at Brooklyn and Manhattan's Upper West Side.

That's where the votes are.

The Democrats now bring their show on the road. Nixon, for the moment anyway, remains on the Working Families Party line and will siphon away from Cuomo some of the very progressive voters he seeks.

Gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro and his Republicans, meanwhile, will place their bets on big counties like Erie and maybe the metropolitan suburbs, too.

They will argue against Cuomo's philosophies, emphasize the indictments against those close to him, and hope for Nixon to work her magic.

But watch for Cuomo to use that word – progressive – everywhere he goes. And, oh yes, one other word: Trump.

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