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Clinton in N.Y. to Boost Cuomo's Sagging Fortunes

October 20, 1994| From Associated Press

NEW YORK — President Clinton traded political compliments with New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Wednesday, basking in praise from one prominent Democrat who isn't shying from an election-year presidential embrace.

"Why is this a race? Why is it even close?" Clinton asked at a dinner that raised $2.5 million for Cuomo's difficult reelection effort.

Clinton called Cuomo "a national treasure" and said that he would win in "a rout" if New Yorkers based their votes on Cuomo's accomplishments.

Cuomo, lagging in New York polls as Clinton is nationally, suggested that neither he nor Clinton gets proper credit for their accomplishments from voters.

"I have to figure out why, after 12 years, all they remember is my baggy eyes," the three-term governor joked.

Clinton brought with him two well-received announcements for New York state.

In one, he pledged to work to alter federal law to increase the federal Medicaid contribution to New York, saying the current formula "is unfair to you, and I think we should change it." The formula rewards poor states and penalizes richer ones.

He also said he was granting New York a federal waiver that will give the state more flexibility in its welfare program. People who work could still qualify for welfare payments under certain circumstances.

"I don't know why all the things this President has done have not been noted by the American public," Cuomo told an afternoon conference nominally held to discuss the state's economic future.

"It may be that he has not spent enough time dwelling on each of them as they occurred. I really don't understand it."

Cuomo is facing a tough reelection challenge from Republican George E. Pataki. While some Democratic incumbents have tried to put distance between themselves and Clinton, Cuomo has not.

A recent poll by the New York Times and WCBS-TV showed that 55% of surveyed New Yorkers approved of Clinton's performance, while only 45% approved of the job Cuomo was doing.

"There's a negativism, a divisiveness in the air," Cuomo told the evening fund-raiser in a mid-town Manhattan hotel. "There is a kind of fear, a concern, an anxiety among Americans. And there are people who will pander to it and use it politically."

Clinton is "showing us that the way is up," Cuomo said.

The President returned the praise in kind.

"You've still got it, Mario," Clinton said to rousing applause.

"I admire your governor so much, I like him so much, I feel that he is my real partner. I think that he has given you strong and disciplined and responsible leadership. And he is still filled with new ideas and energy," Clinton said.

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