Corruption Probe May Not Hurt Cuomo’s National Profile

ALBANY (AP) -

Both are big-name governors of populous states. Both have presidential aspirations and a reputation for bare-knuckle bullying. And both are now facing criticism — and the scrutiny of federal prosecutors — for their administration’s penchant for micro-management.

While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s bridge scandal resonates with any driver who has ever sat in traffic, the troubles facing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo over his handling of a special anti-corruption commission are more subtle, complicated by political and legal nuance.

Some observers say that means Cuomo has a good shot at surviving his current controversy, the gravest test of his administration so far, without much more than a dent in his national stature. But they warn that additional revelations could disrupt not only a second Cuomo term but also his national ambitions.

The Democratic governor’s office has attracted scrutiny and the attention of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for allegations that it meddled with the commission’s work.

Now, the allegations have been rehashed on national media. Cuomo’s office has hired a criminal defense attorney, and his political opponents are turning it into political hay.

The episode has tarnished his image as a new kind of Albany politician who stays out of the capital city’s robust tradition of cronyism and self-dealing. But should Cuomo enter the presidential field, will voters in other states care about a little-known commission in New York?

“Because he is mentioned as a contender, the national news will increasingly pick up on this,” said Brigid Harrison, a political science professor. “But to a voter in California or North Dakota it may be kind of small potatoes.”

Contrast that with allegations that Christie’s office caused traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge as a political reprisal. The scandal dominated national news and threatened to derail Christie’s 2016 chances.

Christie, Harrison noted, is working to overcome the traffic scandal with light-hearted interviews and crisscrossing the country in his role as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Cuomo, on the other hand, rarely leaves New York, shuns the national media and dismisses talk about 2016.

So don’t look for the famously controlling Cuomo to make any jokes about the scandal .

“If this doesn’t go any further, it becomes a footnote,” said Gerald Benjamin, another political science professor. “But he doesn’t control events. And a federal prosecutor has possession of the files.”