If a Democratic primary for Governor of New York were held today, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo would defeat accidental Governor David Paterson by a whopping 55% to 33%, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll.
And while Paterson would tie with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani 43-43, Cuomo would trounce Rudy 51-37. Paterson's approval rating among voters is at a miserable 45-41 percent, the lowest level in his 11 months as Governor and down from 50-30 percent January 26.
One clear factor in that decline is voter disapproval by 52 to 35 percent of his handling of the appointment to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. Even though most New Yorkers wound up negative about Caroline Kennedy, they didn't like Paterson's apparent disrespect toward the Camelot Princess and his bumbling approach to the whole affair. Another big factor, however, is Paterson's staunch backing of an austerity budget in response to the recession and plunging state revenues. This has unleashed a massive TV and other advertising and lobbying campaign that tagets him personally by public employee unions and others who don't want any cuts.
By contrast, approval of Cuomo's job as AG is an overwhelming 76 to 11. Giuliani's favorable rating is a solid Giuliani 56 to 35, which means he is still a formidable contender, especially against the wounded Paterson.
Paterson's Senate choice of upstate Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand has received a generally favorable reception from voters, although some of her past "Blue Dog" Democrat stands as a representative of a conservative GOP district still could provoke a primary from a more liberal down stater. Gillibrand's big problem is that most New Yorkers don't know enough about her to offer an opinion, but the same can be said of her most likely primary and general election challengers.
A possible scenario that makes a lot of sense for 2010 is that Cuomo challenges Paterson, and if it still seems likely he would prevail, Rudy will instead run against Gillibrand for Senate, a race he's entirely capable of winning, delivering a rare northeastern Senate seat to the GOP.
In any case, unless he makes up a huge amount of ground in the next 10 months, Paterson will be battling for his political career.
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