ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to seek re-election in 2018 and is considered a presidential hopeful in 2020 -- so much so that a national GOP group is already trying to derail his ambitions.
The America Rising PAC, which is targeting potential Democratic presidential candidates, said Wednesday it will ramp up its criticism of New York's Democratic governor, launching ads, building opposition research and trailing him at public events with cameras in tow.
Cuomo, who is seeking a third term in November, is "making moves on the national stage to define himself for the 2020 presidential, but also is someone who is essentially vulnerable in 2018 in terms of not really shoring up his own base," the conservative group's executive director, Alexandra Smith, contended.
The group started targeting Cuomo in February, but said it is bolstering its efforts after also starting to target Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator and possible Democratic presidential candidate.
Smith said the Washington-based group will also target other rumored Democratic hopefuls, including New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Cuomo's office knocked the PAC's efforts.
"America Rising is a conservative fringe group whose attacks may work in the Beltway but have been tried and failed in New York," Cuomo spokesman James Allen said in a statement.
"Governor Cuomo’s initiatives – from first-in-the-nation tuition-free college, $15 minimum wage and the country's strongest paid family leave program to historic investments in infrastructure across the state – have overwhelming support from New Yorkers. If some Beltway hacks want to waste their special-interest money to be on the other side of overwhelming support, that's on them."
Recent polls have shown Cuomo's popularity sinking in recent months, largely due to the troubles on the New York City subways -- for which he has shouldered significant blame.
Former Hudson Valley state Sen. Terry Gipson is considering a primary challenge to Cuomo next year, and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner is also a potential primary opponent.
Republicans are also eyeing a run against Cuomo: including Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who lost to Cuomo in 2014; Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro; Scarsdale financier Harry Wilson and Syracuse Sen. John DeFrancisco.
Cuomo, though, heads into his re-election bid with $26 million in his campaign warchest, and he still maintained a 52 percent to 41 percent favorability rating.
On Wednesday in Binghamton, Cuomo said the state's economy continues to improve, citing a low unemployment rate and a record 8 million people employed.
“We’re on the right track; we just have to keep going,” Cuomo said.