Why They Want To Draft Cuomo

February 07, 1992

With less than two weeks to go before New Hampshire votes, and less than four weeks before Maryland votes, polls suggest the formal Democratic candidates are not convincing citizens they are of presidential stature.

In New Hampshire, the latest daily tracking poll by the American Research Group shows Gov. Bill Clinton ahead of the weak field with 37 percent, with "undecided" second at 23. Nationally, according to a Los Angeles Times poll, "undecided" is just ahead of Governor Clinton, 34-31 percent. In Maryland, "undecided" is leading Governor Clinton by a whopping 48 percent to 24 percent, according to the Mason-Dixon poll.

After several weeks of intense campaigning, such a result is a vote of no-confidence in the campaigners. Is it any wonder a search for alternatives has begun, including a serious Draft Cuomo movement? Another polling organization in New Hampshire, the Sawyer-Miller Group, included Governor Cuomo on its latest ballot. He finished in a virtual first-place dead heat with Governor Clinton and former Sen. Paul Tsongas. This is not surprising. He was leading in New Hampshire polls till he announced he wouldn't run.

Governor Cuomo was also leading in the polls in Maryland until he announced he would not run. He presumably is still more popular here than the announced candidates. But write-in candidacies are prohibited in Maryland primaries. The U.S. Fourth Circuit of Appeals ruled in a Maryland case in 1989 that write-in voters have broad First Amendment rights in general elections, but the state takes the position that it may still forbid primary write-ins, and until a court or the legislature says otherwise, it will.

So Maryland Democrats who want to support Governor Cuomo or any candidate other than those listed on the ballot will be unable to do so March 3. If New Hampshire's results make Maryland's ballot a list of unlikely nominees, the impact of the primary here will be less than expected.

Maryland Democrats who want some other presidential nominee will have to work indirectly through their "super-delegates" -- officeholders, party officials -- who are not chosen on the basis of the primary vote. They, along with super-delegates from other states, may, if the primary season proves inconclusive, end up with the power to decide the nomination at the national convention.

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