Cynthia Nixon’s Cuomo Debate: How Did She Fare?

What temperature was the room in the end? Did Nixon's mastery of the facts overcome her political inexperience? And could she really be America's Jeremy Corbyn? Rosa Prince unpicks the key talking points from last-night's debate...

Eight Takeaways From Cynthia Nixon's Cuomo Debate

by Rosa Prince |
Published on

As Miranda from Sex in the City, her face was instantly recogniseable - but now Cynthia Nixon is hoping to persuade New Yorkers with her own ideas and vision.

The 52-year-old actress is not letting her lack of political experience stop her running for one of the most important elected offices in America – the governorship of New York.

In the first and only debate of the contest for the Democratic nomination for the role, Cynthia took on Andrew Cuomo, a political veteran seeking his third term as governor.

Trailing Cuomo in the polls and with a fraction of his funds to spend on her campaign, with two weeks to go until the primary election Cynthia was hoping to use the debate to reach out directly to voters and argue she is qualified to win their trust.

Here eight takeaways from the debate:

1. Cynthia Nixon has left Miranda behind her:

Sure, one of the main reasons Cynthia has attracted so much attention in her run for governor is her role as one of the four Cosmopolitan-swigging, Manolo Blahnik-shod, Manhattan-ite friends in Sex in the City. But the debate showed Cynthia knows her stuff. Running as a left-winger, she landed a series of punches on long-term incumbent Andrew Cuomo on a range of issues from New York’s crumbling public transport system to her call for a healthcare system similar to the NHS, to the legalisation of marijuana and what she described as the Governor’s “corruption”.

2. And yet…

It is impossible to see Cynthia Nixon in full flight and not think of her most famous character. Miranda the lawyer would have been perfectly at home on the debate stage, reeling off statistics and tripping Cuomo up repeatedly with a series of combative interruptions and accusations. Even if she wanted voters to forget about SATC, Cuomo wasn’t going to let them. At one point he accused her of pulling political favours to help out co-star Sarah Jessica Parker and her favourite “tea shop,” a British-themed café near her character Carrie’s home in the West Village.

3. Cynthia has learned her lines – and her policy

Cynthia had a series of punchy sound bites up her sleeve which she delivered in an unmerciful fashion, often seeming to shock the rather more buttoned-up Cuomo. When he asked when she would stop interrupting, she retorted “when you stop lying.” She accused him of using the MTA (which runs the subway) “like an ATM,” and said Cuomo was standing up to President Donald Trump about as well as Trump had stood up to Russian leader Vladimir Putin – ie, not very well.

4. Cynthia’s biggest problem is her inexperience

Andrew Cuomo was able to make play of Cynthia’s lack of political experience, contrasting it with his own record as a two-term governor and 50-years in public service. To be fair to Cynthia, she has a track record of activism, particularly in the fields of education and LGBT rights. But the governor’s quips that she “lives in the world of fiction, I live in the world of facts,” and his world-weary insistence that the governor can’t click their fingers to make things happen, will have resonated with voters.

5. Cynthia is the new Jeremy

Like Jeremy Corbyn in the UK three years ago, Cynthia Nixon’s decision to take on the centre-left political establishment with a radical socialist programme makes her the outsider in the race. She trails Governor Cuomo in the polls, and has raised substantially less money. But both Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, the left-winger who gave Hillary Clinton a run for her money for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2016, have shown that voters on both sides of the Atlantic are perhaps more prepared to accept a left-winger than the pundits – and the pollsters – appreciate.

6. She kept her cool when the debate got heated

Before the debate, Cynthia’s team insisted the hall – at Hofstra University on Long Island – be heated to a balmy 76F (24C) to combat what they described as the “notoriously sexist” phenomenon of men insisting on over-airconditioned rooms. The Governor is said to prefer a chilled atmosphere to avoid perspiration. A 2015 study found keeping the thermostat down in work places left women uncomfortable, as the settings were based on the average male’s metabolism. Amid much chatter about the temp in the room, and on the hottest day of the year, the event’s moderator’s from television station CBS were keeping schtum about where the thermometer actually stood on the night.

7. The big enemy is Donald Trump

Just about the only thing the pair agreed on was both their hatred for Donald Trump, and their fear that the President poses a genuine threat to the liberal way of life New Yorkers prize. As the outsider, Cynthia had little choice but to go hard against the Governor – leading him to respond in kind. But allowing the debate to get so unpleasant will have cheered no one more than Mr Trump.

8. Victory remains an outside bet

This was Cynthia’s big chance to connect with voters, the only debate of the campaign and probably the one time she will be able to command a prime time audience ahead of polling day in two weeks’ time. How she must have wished as many voters tuned in to the debate as used to switch on to watch Miranda, Carrie, Samantha and Charlotte back in the day. And while she certainly didn’t squander her opportunity, rising to the occasion with a respectable performance and committing no glaring errors, there was no game-changing moment such that which turned the presidential election in favour of John F Kennedy against Richard Nixon in 1960. She’s still in it, but the wise money remains with the Governor

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