Paterson plagued by low poll numbers

Gov. David Paterson may have held center stage this weekend when he announced his bid for a full fou

Gov. David Paterson may have held center stage this weekend when he announced his bid for a full four-year term, but he shared it indirectly with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Try as he might to position himself as the No. 1 Democratic candidate for governor, Paterson’s popularity among Democrats in the state is tenuous, according to polls conducted by the Siena Research Institute. Its latest poll is due out Monday and will likely show that Paterson continues to trail Cuomo, although the gap is narrowing, according to Steven Greenberg of the Siena Research Institute.

“Clearly, the governor is in a difficult political position right now. His favorable ratings are low, how people view his job is 3-to-1 negative and overwhelmingly, by 3-to-1, voters say they prefer someone else,” Greenberg said.

That “someone else” is Cuomo, according to Siena polls.

“Cuomo is significantly out front,” Greenberg said, based on polls. In a November Siena poll, 75 percent of voters interviewed said they preferred Cuomo for governor versus 16 percent for Paterson. In January, that changed to 59 percent for Cuomo and 21 percent for Paterson.

To determine Cuomo’s viability and durability, Siena researchers asked people the same question in each poll over the last year: Should Andrew Cuomo run for re-election as attorney general or run for governor. “The majority say he should run for governor,” Greenberg said.

Cuomo has not declared himself yet for governor because he has time to wait, Greenberg said.

“There are two main reasons why a candidate declares early. One is fundraising and the second is name recognition,” he said. Cuomo is superior to Paterson on both fronts, Greenberg said. Cuomo has $16 million in his campaign accounts versus Paterson’s $3 million.

Also, “Cuomo is the most popular candidate in New York so he does not need help there,” Greenberg said.

In terms of name recognition, Paterson ties with former congressman Rick Lazio, a Republican running for governor, “even though Lazio is virtually unknown in half the state,” Greenberg said.

Paterson’s unpopularity comes from a confluence of events, Greenberg said. When he replaced former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned amid a prostitution scandal in 2008, Paterson scored well with voters. His problems began shortly after he named Kirsten Gillibrand as U.S. senator.

People criticized him over how he brushed aside Caroline Kennedy, who was interested in the seat. He also took flak over how he dealt with the state’s budget last year, Greenberg said.

“Many groups attacked the governor and there was no push back by the governor,” he said.

For the present, at least two county Democratic committee leaders said they support Paterson.

“As it stands today, Gov. Paterson is the only announced candidate for governor and he has always enjoyed my support and is doing a good job in very difficult circumstances,” said Brian Quail, chairman of the Schenectady County Democratic Committee.

Bethany Schumann-McGhee, chairwoman of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee, said she supports the governor. She also rated his chance of winning as high. “His chances are excellent, given that he is the only announced candidate,” she said.

Larry Bulman, chairman of the Saratoga County Democratic Committee, said he wants Paterson to step aside for Cuomo. “I have called on Andrew Cuomo to come forward. We need a new direction,” he said. “I am hoping Cuomo does something by the beginning of April.”

Bulman said his position has put him in conflict with Paterson’s camp. “The governor’s office has reached out to discuss their displeasure with me, that I no longer feel he should be the guy running. But they understand it is not about personalities,” he said. “Paterson is wrong for New York. He is all about negativity and pessimism.”

Schumann-McGhee said she and other party leaders are waiting to see what happens during the Democratic Party’s statewide convention in May. A candidate can force a primary by obtaining 25 percent of the floor vote. A primary would occur in September.

Should there be a primary, Paterson could do well, according to a Democratic official who asked not to be identified. The official said primaries generally draw 15 percent to 16 percent of enrolled voters and small, dedicated groups can influence them.

Paterson, for example, has strong appeal among African-Americans and gay and lesbian communities, both strong politically, the official said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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