Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, who died today shortly after his son was inaugurated into another term into his dad’s former job, may well go down as one of the few politicians unable — or unwilling — to parlay a stemwinder political convention’s keynote speech into a subsequent presidential run.
It was 1984, when Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro were trying to knock off Ronald Reagan and George Bush.
Thirty years later, nobody remembers any speech from that convention. Except that one.
There have been scholarly studies, in fact, that contend that speech set a new standard for political speeches using metaphor as argument.
But there’s a more significant element of that speech that’s a testament to Cuomo’s skill. It could be given today and not a lose a bit of meaning and impact.
Cuomo picked up the nickname Hamlet of the Hudson in 1992 when his indecision whether to run for president kept worthy candidates from taking a shot until the last minute. By the time he decided not to run, only Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts had announced. So big was Cuomo’s stature, that the field eventually swelled to just Tsongas, Gov. Douglas Wilder of Virginia, Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, and former California governor Jerry Brown.
Oh, and a guy who had given a disastrous keynote speech four years earlier — Bill Clinton.