When it comes to the political methods shared by fictional Frank Skeffington and real New York political leaders—Michael Bloomberg, Mario Cuomo, and Nelson Rockefeller—consider how Skeffington built his power on waste. During his time as mayor, Skeffington completed many tangible construction projects, yet these edifices were often excessive, or, in the words of Skeffington critic Nathaniel Gardiner, “unnecessary.”
When he was mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg undertook similar types of superfluous building projects to attract favorable attention and make it look like he was improving the city. In 2013, Bloomberg began building pedestrian walkways in Times Square. This project cost around $55 million. The project was presented as “progress,” yet it’s possible to describe it as “unnecessary.” Maybe that money would have been better spent if it had gone to confront substantive issues like homelessness.
Another key component of Skeffington was his rhetoric. Skeffington was a captivating speaker who could charm people with his words. Gardiner describes Skeffington as an “extraordinary wit” who regularly “stunned” his political adversaries. Governor Mario Cuomo employed his verbal prowess to win voters and preserve his influence. In their obituary for Cuomo, the New York Times refers to the three-term governor as a “spellbinding speaker.”
Another similar political method adopted by Cuomo and Skeffington relates to ruthlessness. The two figures seemed to relish political clashes, or, as Skeffington calls it “going to the mat.” During the 1977 mayoral campaign, the Cuomo campaign allegedly spread rumors about the sexuality of their opponent, Ed Koch, with Andrew Cuomo (Mario Cuomo’s son and the governor of New York right now) reportedly hanging up signs in Queens that read, “Vote for Cuomo, not the homo.”
As for commonalities between Skeffington and New York’s four-term governor Nelson Rockefeller, think about how they deftly portrayed the image of the everyman. Skeffington was careful not to offend minorities such as Jews. Rockefeller constructed the persona of a working-class leader by staging events in less wealthy parts of New York City, like the Lower East Side.