New York Gov. Mario Cuomo was giving one of his famous speeches the other day _ talking of his illiterate immigrant parents, of an America that opened her arms to them and of a government that should care for all its citizens.
"Amazing," said one of his listeners. "Nobody talks better. He doesn't even have notes. Pity he won't be around much longer."
Almost everybody is writing Cuomo's political obituary, except a leading Republican and the governor himself, the "would-have, could-have-been" man of Democratic politics.
Often called a political Hamlet for his tendency to endlessly agonize over his future, Cuomo might have been president but never tried. He could have been a Supreme Court justice but didn't accept because he couldn't leave New York.
Now he wants a fourth term as governor, a job polls predict he won't get, despite receiving major support Monday when New York City's Republican mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, defied his party to endorse Cuomo over Republican George Pataki.
With two weeks to go before Election Day, Cuomo was eight points behind Pataki in polls with two-thirds of Pataki voters saying they were more interested in voting against Cuomo than in boosting Pataki, a previously obscure state senator.
Cuomo needs a strong New York City vote and to break even or better in the suburbs to counter a huge negative vote in upstate New York.
The boost that Giuliani gave Cuomo was more than just an endorsement. He blasted Pataki as a hollow man, scripted by political consultants. It was the kind of attack designed to make voters hesitate about rejecting Cuomo in favor of an unknown who promises tax cuts without saying how he would do it.
Cuomo compares himself to Rocky.
"I can hear the Rocky music playing," he told Teamster union leaders in a backroom of the Sheraton hotel Monday. "Come from behind _ I love it. I have almost always come from behind. I am not doing it deliberately this time but I love it."