Paterson Faces Political Peril in Wake of Kennedy Drama

By Caitlin Taylor

Feb 17, 2009 12:00pm

ABC News’ David Chalian reports: The drama surrounding Caroline Kennedy’s initial interest and eventual withdrawal from consideration to serve in the United States Senate seems to have taken a significant toll on Gov. David Paterson’s (D-NY) political outlook.  The governor woke up to some very troubling poll numbers this morning in the wake of his clumsy handling of naming a successor to Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat. A slim majority of New Yorkers (52%) disapprove of the way Gov. Paterson handled the process of selecting a new United States Senator according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University. In addition, Gov. Paterson’s approval rating has dropped a bit to 45% (from 50% in January), his lowest rating since assuming office last March.  The governor has also seen his favorability ratings take a hit and a significant uptick in his unfavorables.  When New Yorkers were asked if their opinion of Gov. Paterson is favorable or unfavorable, 41 percent said favorable compared to 35 percent who said they had an unfavorable opinion.  That is a net positive of 6 percentage points.  In January, Gov. Paterson scored a 48 percent favorable and a 25 percent unfavorable, a net positive of 23 percentage points. These terrible poll numbers for Paterson point to a huge opportunity for New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo who has been eyeing a primary campaign against the governor.  The son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo is not unfamiliar with the perilous intra-party politics that can dominate a Democratic gubernatorial primary — especially one where he would be challenging the Empire State’s first African American governor.  Mr. Cuomo caused significant heartache among New York Democrats when he ran an unsuccessful primary campaign in 2002 against another African American candidate, former state comptroller H. Carl McCall. Unlike seven years ago, Andrew Cuomo now has a record in statewide elected office to put before Democratic primary voters and, according to the Quinnipiac survey, it appears to be a record a large majority of New Yorkers applaud.  Attorney General Cuomo scores a 76 percent approval rating in the poll — the highest approval rating he has received since assuming office a little more than two years ago. It appears not being Gov. Paterson’s pick to replace Hillary Clinton may prove to be the best path to higher office for Cuomo.  In a hypothetical primary match-up, Cuomo wallops Paterson among New York Democrats 55% to 23%.  Mr. Cuomo also appears to be the stronger general election candidate.  According to the poll Cuomo defeats Rudy Giuliani — the highest profile New York Republican said to be considering a bid for Albany’s top job — by a substantial 14 point margin.  By comparison, the poll shows Gov. Paterson and Giuliani in a dead heat with each man garnering 43 percent of the vote. There is a lot of time between now and September 2010 for Gov. Paterson to win his way back into the good graces of New York Democrats, but he clearly has a lot of work ahead of him.

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