Stung by Carl Paladino's below-the-belt attacks, an angry Andrew Cuomo summoned his war council on Monday to figure out how to fight back against his slash-and-burn GOP rival.
"If a guy says you have no cojones, how do you punch him back, call him an a--hole?" the Democratic gubernatorial candidate fumed in a secret talk to his team, one insider said.
"We have all this stuff [on Paladino] and we're on the defensive," Cuomo groused, the insider added.
While Cuomo's adviser Ben Lawsky and his communications team of Marissa Shorenstein, Phil Singer and Josh Vlasto listened, the unhappy candidate wondered aloud what Paladino's pit bull campaign manager Michael Caputo would do with similar dirt.
The Democrat wields a 54%-to-38% lead in the latest Rasmussen Reports poll out Monday, making Team Cuomo reluctant to climb down into the mud and fight Paladino on what they say is his turf.
His staff stressed to Cuomo on Monday that they'd like to push the positive aspects of his agenda to the press, insiders revealed.
The brain trusters also mulled if they should start hitting back at Paladino, rather than leave it exclusively to campaign surrogates such as Democratic Party boss Jay Jacobs. They didn't reach a decision.
They also fretted about the pitfalls of repeatedly telling the press "no comment" to Paladino's broadsides - fearing the practice could ultimately turn the media against them.
Let's see: Not responding directly to personal attacks, high-minded statements about a "positive" agenda, an unwillingness to play gutter politics... why, all Cuomo needs to do is climb into a tank and put on an over-sized helmet!
Children, what's the first thing you do when a bully picks on you? That's right: you whack him right in the nose. Especially when the bully in question is a braying Banana Republican who screeches about the evils of Big Government even as he fights behind the scenes to keep his own chunk of the largesse off the chopping block. And oh, for good measure, he also sends around racist emails and videos depicting woman-on-horse action to his friends.
Let's remember how deftly Senator Jim Webb handled one George Felix Allen back in 2006:
Republican Sen. George Allen attacked his Democratic challenger's opposition to a flag-burning amendment, and James Webb retaliated by calling Allen a coward who sat out the Vietnam War "playing cowboy at a dude ranch in Nevada."
The statement by a senior adviser to Webb, a decorated veteran and former secretary of the Navy, went to extraordinary lengths to question Allen's fortitude, even repeatedly using the middle name the senator detests and never uses, Felix.
"While Jim Webb and others of George Felix Allen Jr.'s generation were fighting for our freedoms and for our symbols of freedom in Vietnam, George Felix Allen Jr. was playing cowboy at a dude ranch in Nevada," said Webb strategist Steve Jarding in the statement Tuesday....
"People who live in glass dude ranches should not question the patriotism of real soldiers who fought and bled for this country on a real battlefield," Jarding said.
This ain't rocket science, folks. When somebody calls you a wimp and you then spend days hemming and hawing over whether to respond to him, it makes you look like... a wimp! Fortunately, Paladino is a target-rich environment who offers plenty of fodder for counter punches. A few come to mind:
- If Carl Paladino wants to talk about cojonies, maybe he could have the cojones to tell black people why he thinks stereotyping them as pimps and prostitutes is funny.
- We've already had a governor who got in trouble because he had a thing for hookers. Do we really want to elect a guy who may have a thing for horses?
- Carl Paladino, a.k.a. the Pork Lord of Buffalo, can't wait to get his hands on the state budget so he can dole out goodies to all his pals, just like he's been using his Albany connections to grab goodies for himself at your expense for years.
Winning isn't so hard, Mr. Cuomo, as long as you actually try.