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On Politics With Lisa Lerer: Cynthia Nixon Talks Bagels, Polls and Cuomo

Category: Political News,Politics

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host. It’s Primary Day in New Hampshire.

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Thank you so much for an incredible first day. Hundreds of you sent us emails, and one thing we heard a lot was that you wanted more stories from around the country and fewer from Washington and New York.

So naturally, for day two, we decided to start with an interview from New York City.

But wait! Before you swamp my feed with angry tweets, let me explain.

Arguably the biggest political story this week is the New York governor’s primary on Thursday. Of course this race matters for New Yorkers. But it also tells us a lot about issues roiling the Democratic Party nationally: the strength of the party’s insurgent wing, the future of an establishment favorite with possible presidential aspirations and the power of celebrity in politics.

So, two days ahead of the election, we checked in with Cynthia Nixon, the actress-turned-political activist who’s mounted a surprisingly vigorous challenge to second-term Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Keep reading to hear why she thinks Mr. Cuomo is like President Trump, polls are wrong and smoothies are her campaign trail secret.

Lisa: Hi Cynthia, thanks for joining us. You’re a first-time candidate; what’s surprised you most about running?

Ms. Nixon: Oh my God, the biggest surprise is just how it never stops. Just as soon as you think you’ve mastered one thing, it’s like, “Oh, now I need to pull out this whole new skill.”

I thought you might say how surprised you were at the fascination with your bagel order.

I’m stunned. This is my bagel of choice for a few decades now. It’s never been public knowledge, and I really am fascinated that people are so emotional about it.

But, you know, there are also crazy things that happen — like the governor opening a bridge that’s unsafe to give himself a photo op, or being accused of not being strong against anti-Semitism when my own children are Jewish.

I was wondering how you felt when you saw that mailer.

I thought it was disgusting and cynical and really surprising that Andrew Cuomo’s New York State party would stoop to this kind of fear-mongering and lies.

To use this in this nasty and untruthful way — it’s really Trumpian.

Do you think Cuomo knew about it?

I absolutely think he knew about it. I think he’s a micromanager and it’s his Democratic Party. The idea that he did not know about it is patently ridiculous.

Do you think you’re going to win? The polls look grim.

I don’t know what to tell you — the polls say I’m wrong again and again and again. But I’ve got to tell you, in every community that I’m in, meeting people, I’m getting a huge amount of support. I think that people just are not understanding the progressive movement we’re in.

You’re in the final stretch. How have the last 48 hours been? Are you sleeping?

I fall into bed when I get home. I try to take some time to remind my children who I am and what I look like. When our 7-year-old comes in the middle of the night the last few weeks, we just cuddle him. Even that physical closeness when we’re seeing so little of him during the day really makes a difference.

I’m drinking as much water as I can. I find that that’s actually sustaining.

What about eating?

All campaigning should have food as its main activity, because, I tell you, that’s one of the really hard things is trying to find times to grab food.

I’ve eating more bananas in the last month than I think I’ve ever eaten in my life. Smoothies are my friend.

Obviously, you’re campaigning while female. Have been surprised by how female candidates are perceived?

I’ve been intrigued that people really seem to like it better when I wear a suit. I mean, I like wearing a suit, it’s great, but I think when they try and imagine me as governor, I think wearing a suit seems to be important. Little things like that, that you wouldn’t think would make a difference, actually seem to.


Is the Senate slipping to the left?

I thought it was worth highlighting a remark Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell made in his home state of Kentucky today.

McConnell called the midterm elections “very challenging,” before listing nine states with races that he described as “dead even.”

“All of them too close to call, and every one of them like a knife fight in an alley, just a brawl.”

Now, Mr. McConnell has been downplaying expectations for months. But generally, Republicans have been pretty optimistic about their chances. The map really favors them, with a lot of competitive races being held in red states. And they felt good about their candidates.

That’s shifted in recent weeks. New polls have shown a bunch of states — Arizona, Tennessee, Florida and Missouri — nearly tied. Democrats feel good about states like Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania, and they are even mounting a surprising challenge in Texas.

Winning the Senate — or at least tying it up at 50-50 — now seems like a real possibility for Democrats. And Republicans are starting to worry that Democratic strength at the top of the ticket in some red states could hurt them down the ballot in House and local races.

Adam Clymer was the chief political reporter for The New York Times. I was a just-out-of-college reporter. “Dear Mr. Clymer,” I wrote him. “You don’t know me, but I want your job.”

Adam invited me for coffee in The Times cafeteria, where he happily dispensed advice (“Go work anyplace but New York”). Thirty years later, as a Times reporter, I ran into Adam at a party, where I asked him if he recalled our earlier meeting. “Of course I do,” he said. “I’m glad to see you made it.”

Adam was cantankerous and curmudgeonly, but it was in service to political journalism, political reporters and The Times. It was traumatizing to wake up to a note from him pointing out something we got wrong: a perspective missed, an absent historical detail that he knew because — well, because he was there. (Mr. Clymer would liberally cc: your colleagues and bosses, too.)

But it was as heartening to wake up to his praise. “Smart Virginia story! Thank you,” he wrote my colleague Jonathan Martin. Adam always used words like “fine” and “smart” in those herograms. And he always ended them with “Thank You.” That tells you everything you need to know about how he viewed what he — what we — did.


Help me feel smarter

This week is the 10th anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the biggest bankruptcy in history and a moment that still shapes our country. Read Andrew Ross Sorkin’s retrospective here.

As America grapples with the opioid crisis, medical schools have largely failed to train their students to prevent, diagnose and treat addiction. Here’s how some doctors are trying to change that.

Seventeen years ago today, Richard Drew, a photographer for The Associated Press, captured history in his shot of a man plummeting from the World Trade Center. The “Falling Man” image remains shocking. Read the story behind the photo in Esquire.


… Seriously, guys

A photo by the indefatigable New York Times photographer Doug Mills of President Trump double fist pumping on the way to a Sept. 11 memorial service angered some people today. (Here’s the video, if you want to see the move in action.)

At the ceremony afterward, though, Mr. Trump appeared “subdued and sober,” our reporter Peter Baker wrote.


Thanks for reading. Politics is more than what goes on inside the White House. On Politics brings you the people, issues and ideas reshaping our world.

Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

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