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Cuomo Urges Democrats To Develop Fall Message

May 15, 1992

NEW YORK (AP) _ Gov. Mario Cuomo warned Democrats on Thursday that the party needs to develop a specific, understandable message - now that they have ″a great messenger″ - to avoid another general election defeat.

″He makes a superb candidate,″ Cuomo said of Democratic presidential front-runner Bill Clinton at a dinner for state party chairmen. ″You’ll have a great messenger. You need a great message.″

Cuomo criticized the Democrats for their 1984 and 1988 losses when he said they should have won. He appeared to be criticizing both past general election messages and suggesting that Clinton’s campaign themes so far would not be adequate for the fall.

Clinton, who has clashed with Cuomo in the past, has prided himself during the primary season on offering specific plans on economics, education and foreign policy as well as other areas.

″You will not be able to win if you have the presumption of change and nothing else going for you,″ he said. ″I do not believe we can go through this race with a lot of nice generalities. We tried it before and it didn’t work.″

Harold Ickes, convention director for the Clinton campaign, said he agreed with Cuomo’s remarks.

″I did not take it as a criticism,″ Ickes said. ″I think Bill Clinton has a strong message. Obviously, it will go through some refinements as the campaign progresses.″

Cuomo said he was not trying to suggest that there were problems with Clinton’s message.

″The time for the message is when he goes against the Republicans, not when he goes against Democrats,″ Cuomo said.

Asked if he was saying Clinton needed to change his approach in the fall, he replied, ″I think Bill Clinton thinks he will have to do something different in the general election, like any other candidate that ever ran.″

Cuomo said he had not been following Clinton’s campaign closely. He did say Clinton’s proposal for a national education trust fund, making college aid available to all, was the kind of thing voters would find appealing.

″You cannot get by with pablum, you can’t get by with generalities,″ he said.

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