Perhaps it was a “green” bus, in keeping with the theme of President Obama’s visit to Hudson Valley Community College yesterday, but Gov. David Paterson was definitely thrown under one this weekend. That’s when Obama aides conveyed the message to the poll-stricken Paterson, in no uncertain terms, that he should give up the idea of running for governor next year, or “stand down,” as they put it. In a show of defiance, or perhaps just a face-saving delay of the inevitable, Paterson responded, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Such an intervention by a president in state politics is highly unusual. And that it would be done this way — so blatantly and just before a presidential visit to the state — makes it particularly humiliating for Paterson.
What has he done to deserve such treatment? Nothing, really. Paterson is an intelligent, capable man who takes his job seriously and has tried to do what is best for the state. But through a combination of his own deficiencies as a leader and circumstances (mostly the Wall Street meltdown and brutal recession that have forced him to do unpopular things to deal with multibillion-dollar deficits), he has achieved extraordinarily low poll numbers which indicate he can’t win next November, especially against a strong candidate like Rudolph Giuliani. And there’s a greater chance that Rudy will choose to run if Paterson is his opponent rather than the popular Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
It’s not just a Republican governor that the Obamaites fear, though. It’s also the possible loss of Democratic incumbents in conservative districts, like Gillibrand in the Senate and Scott Murphy in the House, if Paterson pulls down the ticket next November. And the possibility that the Republicans could retake the state Senate. So the calculus was that Paterson has to go (and sooner or later, he probably will). But there was no need for the strong-arm tactics now.
Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day, and an exciting one for the Capital Region as the president came and said good things about its green jobs, colleges, Tech Valley, the GlobalFoundries plant, etc. But it was also about Gov. Paterson being treated as a political sacrifice. Ultimately it may have been necessary, but it didn’t have to be done this way.