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Once Hailed as Heroes by the Left, Cuomo and Newsom Now Up to Their Necks in Hot Water

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At the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, two Democratic governors on opposite ends of the country were adored by many on the left.

Now, Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California both face a political crisis.

For Cuomo, it’s a federal investigation into whether his administration sought to hide the true toll of the virus in nursing homes. For Newsom, it’s a recall effort fueled by opposition to his strict lockdowns — and his own personal missteps.

When schools and workplaces were first shuttered last March, Cuomo went on television for daily briefings that were sharply critical of the Trump administration. The briefings were widely celebrated, aided in part by Cuomo’s CNN news host brother and even landing the governor an International Emmy award.

Newsom, meanwhile, was hailed by his liberal allies for imposing early and severe lockdowns.

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As the pandemic worsened in New York, Cuomo on March 25 issued a directive barring nursing homes from refusing patients based on a COVID-19 diagnosis. Cuomo defended the move as an effort to prevent hospital overcrowding.

Despite his state’s death toll — more than 46,000 people in New York have died of COVID-19, the highest total of any state except California — Cuomo’s popularity soared, and some Democrats in the spring and summer wondered if Cuomo could replace Joe Biden on their ticket or sign on as a vice presidential candidate.

In October, Cuomo took an early victory lap, releasing a book titled “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

But the nursing home issue exploded onto the political scene with two recent revelations.

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First, the state’s Democratic attorney general chastised the Cuomo administration for minimizing the death toll at nursing homes by excluding certain fatalities from the count.

Cuomo’s administration then revealed that at least 15,000 people living in long-term care facilities have died of COVID-19, nearly double the number Cuomo had initially disclosed.

The New York Post reported that a member of Cuomo’s administration told lawmakers it had withheld the numbers for fear of them being “used against us.”

A furious Cuomo at a news conference accused Ron Kim, a Democratic state legislator who spoke to the Post, of corruption. Kim said Cuomo had called him and threatened to “destroy” him.

The blowback was swift. Democratic state lawmakers called for Cuomo’s emergency powers to be revoked, and Republicans moved to start the impeachment process.

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The meltdown in California has been more gradual.

A month after Cuomo released his coronavirus book, an embarrassed Newsom was apologizing for attending a lobbyist’s birthday party at a posh San Francisco restaurant, even as he was telling Californians to avoid gatherings.

The restaurant scandal came as the virus spiraled out of control in California. Rising cases and shrinking capacity at hospitals prompted Newsom to reinstate stay-at-home orders between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Republicans had circulated recall petitions against Newsom months before due to his handling of homelessness and the economy, but they shifted to include his coronavirus response and began racking up signatures.

In January, Newsom abruptly lifted the stay-at-home orders. The state’s coronavirus numbers are dropping. His job approval rating has also.

And just like that, the very crisis that turned Cuomo and Newsom into two rising stars of the Democratic Party has clouded their once bright political futures.


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