America Reminds George Pataki of New York Under Mario Cuomo

Former Gov. George Pataki (Photo: Fernando Leon/Getty Images)
Former Gov. George Pataki (Photo: Fernando Leon/Getty Images)

Former Gov. George Pataki—now a long-shot contender for the presidency—said last night that the nation’s current situation brings back memories of the Empire State in 1994 when he unseated Mario Cuomo, the ex-governor who died in January.

Addressing donors and politicians gathered at the New York State Republican Party gala at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan, Mr. Pataki, a Republican, lamented a seemingly endless cycle of bad news, before making the crack at Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s father’s expense.

“You turn on the TV, go on the internet, it seems the news in this country and around the world gets worse every day. You know, things are so bad, they’re starting to remind me of New York when I ran against Mario Cuomo,” he said, to a mixture of laughter and “oohs.”

Mr. Pataki then made his pitch for the White House, asserting that he stood out from more than a dozen GOP candidates because of his appeal to the larger electorate.

“But I’ll tell you something, just like then, if you don’t want to just sit there and complain about what’s happening, or pick up and leave, fight the fight to change things. I am fighting the fight, and I am running for president of the United States,” he said to applause. “If I get the Republican nomination for president, I am going to win the general election in November.”

“How many candidates would make a great president, but they can’t win an election—let me tell you, you all know the song, ‘if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” he continued.

He went on to highlight how he and former Gov. Nelson Rockefeller were the only Republicans to hold the state’s highest office since 1950, and that his re-election totals far outstripped those of Rockefeller or any other Republican in New York’s history. Mr. Pataki also noted the drastic drop in crime that occurred during his tenure, $143 billion in tax cuts passed and welfare rolls reduced by one million

“We will win this state, and we will win the Republican nomination,” he said. “It’s not about holding a title, or being able to pat yourself on the back. It’s about changing government. And no government in America changed more than New York State did during the 12 years I was governor.”

Kevin McCarthy, the majority leader of the House of Representatives, was also a slated speaker for the evening, and he praised Mr. Pataki even though he said he was not yet endorsing any candidate.

“He’s got a lot of successes under his belt,” the California Republican told the Observer. “I’m going to let them all compete, but if Pataki’s the nominee, I could easily support Pataki. He was a strong governor, and a good leader.”

But the centrist stances that allowed Mr. Pataki to win and hold the governor’s mansion in New York may hobble him in the presidential primaries, where more ideological voters tend to participate. He ranks near the bottom of all GOP contenders in most polls, though one survey found him tied with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in New York.

America Reminds George Pataki of New York Under Mario Cuomo