A Grass-Roots Movement To Draft Cuomo

IN a few months, Phil Krone might look back and say: "What ever possessed me to try something like this?"

But right now he doesn't have time to think about possible regrets. He's having too much fun and some surprising success.

What Krone is trying to do is get Mario Cuomo back in the presidential race.

To do this, he has to overcome Republican slyness and Democratic stupidity.

The slyness is the way the Republicans in the New York legislature - following orders from the White House - have tied Cuomo up in a state budget battle to keep him out of primaries.

The stupidity is the way Democratic Party Chairman Ron Brown gave Cuomo a deadline - enter the New Hampshire primary or withdraw as a candidate.

So Cuomo reluctantly withdrew. And that, as far as most politicians and the media were concerned, ended Cuomo as a factor in next year's elections.

But Krone, a Chicago-based political consultant, wouldn't accept it.

"Every poll shows that Cuomo is the most popular Democrat in the country," Krone says. "He's got more support than the other six guys put together. And he's the only candidate the Republicans fear. Richard Nixon will tell you that. So why should Cuomo get out? It's ridiculous."

So Krone took it upon himself to form a committee to draft Mario Cuomo.

That was only a week ago. Since then, he's accomplished the following:

"I've opened our headquarters. It's at 36 S. State St., Suite 1524, Chicago, Ill. Mention the zip, huh? It's 60603. That's so people can send money. And we need money. Anybody who sends $10 or more will get a Cuomo poster, buttons, bumper stickers and a membership card.

"We have a committee phone number: 312-629-9296. And beginning Jan. 2, we'll have a national 1-800 number. It's a great number, too: 1-800-92-Cuomo.

"Now to get back to money. The biggest reason we need money now is because I've obtained a computer tape of every registered Democrat in New Hampshire. About 100,000 of them.

"That means we can do a mailing to all of those Democrats telling them that they don't have to hold their noses and vote for any of the six Democratic no-names. They can write in Cuomo.

"But the mailing will cost about $15,000. And right now, I'm about $15,000 short of that goal."

"What else?" Krone said. "Even before we got our Cuomo Committee phone, people got my home number from information and called. I've had more than 200 calls from people who want to get involved. And not just Chicago. Some from New Hampshire, New York and other places.

"I've already had Chicagoans tell me they want to run as delegates to the Democratic Convention. They will be uncommitted delegates, but they will be for Cuomo.

"So I'm having our first rally. Actually, it won't be a rally so much as a meeting of volunteers.

"It will be next Saturday, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the headquarters. Anybody who wants to run as a delegate or work on the campaign should come.

"And people from other states can phone us or write, and we'll help them get started organizing.

"This is strictly grass roots. In fact, I had a big-money Democrat tell me: `Wise up. Cuomo's out. Our money is going somewhere else.'

"I told him that he should wise up. Maybe his money is for someone else, but most Democrats are still for Cuomo. And they vote; his money doesn't."

If you think about it, there aren't many grass-roots movements in politics anymore. As in many sports, the grass isn't real. It's artificial, factory-produced. Like most political campaigns.

So what Krone is trying to do deeply offends the political packagers. He's actually asking ordinary people to give the middle finger to people like Ron Brown, the Democratic chairman who set the stupidly arbitrary deadline for Cuomo; to the professional media wizards who shape the message as well as the hairstyle of the candidates; to the Washington pundits who take it upon themselves to say who the people like - without bothering to ask the people, since the people don't hang out at the Washington Press Club.

For the conspiracy-minded, I know what you're thinking. And the answer is no. This isn't something secretly orchestrated by Cuomo and his people. Krone, whom I've known for years, is doing it on his own.

He's doing it because he has a sense of logic that seems to be lacking in the weak characters who claim to run the Democratic Party.

"What they've done to Cuomo is something like this. It's as if Ryne Sandberg missed the first week or two of spring training because of personal obligations and the manager said: `Sandberg has lost his starting job and will have to sit on the bench; we are making this kid from Peoria our second baseman.' That would be nonsense. The fans would go crazy. But that's what the Democrats did when they gave Cuomo the New Hampshire deadline. I think grass-roots Democrats should have a chance to go crazy, and I'm trying to give them the chance."

So if you share Krone's views, and have some time on your hands, here's a chance to do something.

(Copyright, 1992, Tribune Media Services)