This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Intervening in NYS politics seen as risky for Obama

  • The ultimate showman, P.T. Barnum,
proved to be the inspiration for Cynthia Wu’s current book
project. Photo: DOUGLAS LEVERE

    “For President Obama to involve himself and allow it to be leaked to the press risks offending a segment of his own party.”

    James Campbell
    Chair, Department of Political Science
Published: September 23, 2009

The Obama administration’s public attempt to pressure Gov. David Paterson into declaring that he will not seek election next year so that State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo will more easily secure the Democratic gubernatorial nomination is “highly unusual and very risky,” according to UB political scientist James E. Campbell.

“Presidents normally stay out of internal party-nomination contests,” says Campbell, professor and chair, Department of Political Science, College of Arts and Sciences. “For President Obama to involve himself and allow it to be leaked to the press risks offending a segment of his own party. Moreover, if his effort is successful, he may appear to be a meddling king-maker, trying to keep New York’s Democrats from deciding who will head their party’s ticket.

“If Gov. Paterson refuses the president’s call to declare himself a ‘lame duck,’ President Obama could appear to be unable to control his own party. If Gov. Paterson heeds the president’s call, however, he could effectively be writing himself out of the governing process in Albany,” he says.

Campbell notes that while the Obama administration understands the downsides to its intervention, it sees Paterson as such a heavy liability for Democrats in 2010 that the fallout is worth it just to get him out of the way.

“One wonders what Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is thinking and what she will do,” he adds. “Gov. Paterson plucked her from relative obscurity to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by former Sen. Hillary Clinton, so she owes him a considerable debt of loyalty. But, if Paterson runs, her chances of being elected to the Senate seat will be significantly diminished.”

Reader Comments

Keri Peper says:

Regardless of whether or not President Obama is considered "meddling" with internal politics, the simple act of pressuring Gov. Paterson to not seek re election does not have any ramification for the US Constitution, because unless there is a Blagojevich situation (or some form of), it's not illegal, despite how not well thought out the administration went about it in terms of media.

Posted by Keri Peper, Undergraduate Senior, Political Science and Economics, 09/30/09

Brett Dumain says:

Forget for a moment the part this plays in party politics and think for a moment of the ramifications this has for the Constitution. The federal government is supposed to take a more advisory role according to the powers specifically delegated to it by the US Constitution. This meddling with the internal affairs of a sovereign nation (which New York technically is) should not be tolerated by anyone, let alone the Citizens of the State of New York

Posted by Brett Dumain, undergraduate senior, history, 09/24/09