Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
In a new poll from Siena University, New York Governor David Paterson gets clobbered in a Democratic primary matchup with Andrew Cuomo. He gets clobbered in a general election matchup with Rudy Giuliani.
It's easy to understand why. According to Siena, only 29% of New York voters have a favorable opinion of Paterson, only 18% think he is doing an "excellent" or "good" job as governor and only 14% say they would vote to reelect him.
All of that is very bad news -- for Rick Lazio.
Lazio, you see, trails Paterson 39%-35% in that same poll. That finding isn't an aberration. The Lazio-Paterson matchup has been polled eight times this year. Six times Paterson has led, one time Lazio has led and once the race has been tied.
Lazio is the former Republican congressman who is most famous for running against Hillary Clinton for Senate in 2000. He declared his candidacy for governor today.
Lazio's Senate campaign certainly wasn't a political masterstroke. He's largely been out of the public eye since then. Still, he did take 43% of the vote in 2000. It's pretty incredible to me that anyone could be losing to Paterson right now, especially someone that a fair number of voters have actually heard of (and not for committing a felony or anything like that).
Perhaps that's a testament to how Democratic New York is. It also may be a testament to how little New Yorkers want a second round of Rick Lazio.
With Rudy Giuliani still on the sidelines, Lazio, despite his lousy poll numbers, is the best-known candidate that Republicans have. He could very well be the Republican nominee. His presence in the race may explain why, despite White House pressure, Paterson is reluctant to step aside for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
My guess is that the dynamics in the New York governor's race are like this: Paterson thinks he can beat Lazio, but not Giuliani, so he doesn't want to decide whether he's running until Giuliani makes up his mind. Giuliani thinks he can beat Paterson, but not Cuomo, so he doesn't want to decide whether he's running until Cuomo makes up his mind. Cuomo thinks he can beat anyone, but doesn't want the messiness of a primary battle, so he doesn't want to decide whether he's running until Paterson makes up his mind.
From that, you can see why the New York governor's race is slow to get going. You can also see why Paterson is reluctant to concede that he can't win. The polls, after all, show that he is winning right now.
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