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Non-Candidate Cuomo Shows the Flag In a Key Campaign State

May 18, 1987

GRINNELL, Iowa (AP) _ New York Gov. Mario Cuomo is in Iowa today on his second visit to a key 1988 presidential campaign state in a little more than a week, but he is again shunning local Democratic leaders.

Phil Roeder, spokesman for the Iowa Democratic Party, said party officials ″didn’t get our calls returned″ when they asked Cuomo to appear at fund- raising events during his trip for a commencement address at Grinnell College.

New attention has focused on Cuomo since Gary Hart’s withdrawal from the race, but the New York governor has said he’s sticking by his Feb. 19 decision not to seek the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination.

Iowa Democrats will caucus in February on their choice for president, the first formal contest among 1988 Democratic hopefuls for national convention delegates. The New Hampshire primary is a week later.

During a trip last weekend to deliver a commencement address at Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H., former New Hampshire state Democratic Chairman George Bruno said he got a ″kiss-off″ from Cuomo when he tried to arrange a meeting.

Cuomo continues to do well in the polls in the wake of Hart’s withdrawal. A New York Times survey of Democrats released Sunday showed the Rev. Jesse Jackson the top choice among announced candidates with 17 percent, but Cuomo got support from 25 percent of those surveyed when Democrats were asked about other leading party figures.

A poll of 401 Iowa Democrats in today’s Des Moines Register showed that 32 percent said they would favor Cuomo for president if he became a candidate. According to the newspaper, 20 percent said they would not support the New York governor and 48 percent were undecided. The poll only asked about Cuomo.

″They don’t know me, the voters of Iowa,″ Cuomo said at a news conference today before his commencement speech. ″I don’t think it means a great deal. They have not yet come to know the other Democratic candidates in the presidential primary.″

Cuomo said his popularity in the polls will drop once it becomes clearer he isn’t running in 1988 and other candidates better define their positions and talents.

″These people are impressive,″ Cuomo said of the Democratic candidates. He praised his friend Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Illinios Sen. Paul Simon during the news conference.

He said his current popularity among Democrats does not bring added responsibilities.

″I have no special role to be a spokesman,″ he said. ″I don’t feel any special role inherent in my position now.″

Iowa Democratic Chairwoman Bonnie Campbell said Cuomo’s lack of interest in attending party events would hurt him if he decided to later enter the race.

″From a realistic sense, he doesn’t have an obligation to help the Iowa Democratic Party. But it would sure be nice and it would sure produce a lot of good will for him within the party,″ said Ms. Campbell.

Cuomo said he could not have participated in party fund-raisers without it being interpreted as aimed at furthering his presidential aspirations.

Cuomo’s commencement address today touched on his familiar themes of family and interdependence.

The governor told the 304 graduates that their degrees give them ″an excellent chance at a share of the American Dream.″ Cuomo urged the graduates to keep in mind the responsibilities the successful have in society to help the poor and underprivileged.

The 141-year-old liberal arts college, about 50 miles east of Des Moines, normally attracts a commencement crowd of about 2,500. But Ridgeway said 800 to 900 extra seats were being set up because Cuomo was speaking.

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