NEW YORK (AP) — Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo raced into the stretch run of his re-election campaign with help Thursday from a boldfaced name who threatened to overshadow him on stage: former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Clinton, who has been traveling the country in support of Democratic candidates while playing coy about any White House ambitions, stayed close to home, appearing at a Manhattan rally with Cuomo and his pick for lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul.
Loud chants of "2016! 2016!" greeted Clinton as she took the stage to a raucous reception, far louder than the cheers Cuomo received when she introduced him minutes later. Clinton, who lives in the New York City suburbs, was effusive in her praise for Cuomo, a longtime political ally who worked in her husband's presidential administration.
"There is no doubt the governor is the right leader at the right time with the right plan," Clinton said to the predominantly female crowd rallying under the banner of the Woman's Equality Party, a political organization founded by Cuomo in his race against Republican Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive.
She ticked off a series of Cuomo's accomplishments on his largely liberal social agenda, including marriage equality, gun control and the defense of abortion rights, while praising what she said were his pragmatic fiscal accomplishments.
"I am proud of everything the governor has done to move us forward," said Clinton, who held herself up as an example of the progress women have made in obtaining equal rights. She repeatedly referenced her new granddaughter, Charlotte, as a reason for endorsing Cuomo.
"I believe strongly that I want our granddaughter to have the chance to take advantage of the American dream," she said before pivoting into what has become a frequent talking point on the stump. "You don't need to be the grandchild of a president to be able to have the right to the best possible education."
Clinton is considered the presumptive front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination if she decides to run. Cuomo has also been touted as a possible presidential candidate, though he's unlikely to make a bid if Clinton runs. He took the stage teasing Clinton's potential White House aspirations, saying, "I hope she does something really, really, really big."
But even as the crowd roared their approval and the former first lady threw up her hands in mock exasperation, several dozen people exited the hotel ballroom once Clinton finished speaking and Cuomo took the microphone.
He then launched into an impassioned defense of his record, particularly on women's issues, and never once mentioned Astorino by name a day after they squared off in Buffalo for their lone debate.
"New York is the capital of social progress for the nation," Cuomo said. "We took on the tough ones, we took on the big ones, but that's what leadership requires."
Cuomo has a commanding lead in the polls over Astorino ahead of the Nov. 4 general election.