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Dueling Polls Fire NY Gov Race

By Karen DeWitt


Albany, NY – One day, GOP primary winner and Tea Party associate Carl Paladino was in a statistical tie with Democratic frontrunner Andrew Cuomo, according to a Quinnipiac poll. The next day, Paladino was behind by more than 30 points, according to a Siena College poll.

Cuomo's official reaction was to brush off the first poll, which was bad news for his campaign.

"I take them all with a grain of salt," said Cuomo.

Nevertheless, for the first time many in political circles no longer viewed a Cuomo win as inevitable, and Cuomo immediately made some changes to his campaigning strategy. The Democratic frontrunner, who has been accused of taking a Rose Garden approach, has had few campaign style events, and even fewer encounters answering questions from the media. Yet hours after the poll showing the race was in a dead heat, Cuomo was at a news conference receiving the endorsement of New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Cuomo answered questions from the media, and later in the day he also faced reporters in Albany. He refused to answer Paladino's recent string of insults, but did for the first time indirectly compare himself to his GOP adversary.

"Yes we want to change Albany, yes we're angry," said Cuomo, but he said the question voters should ask candidates is "how do you want to change Albany and how would you do it?"

He said many candidates who ran solely on the mantle of change have failed when they were elected to office.

Cuomo's campaign also released an attack ad calling Paladino a "welfare king" for taking state economic development money but only creating one job with the funds. Democratic Party officials and elected Democrats called Paladino a liar and a "racist."

Steve Greenberg, with Siena College, whose poll had Cuomo the furthest ahead, said the Democratic frontrunner should be looking over his shoulder.

"Every candidate who runs for public office should be worried," said Greenberg. "If they're not worried, they're not campaigning hard."

Paladino praised the poll showing the two men even in the race, but his spokesman said the polls showing Cuomo more than 25 points ahead was "questionable." Paladino made few public appearances, opting to focus on fundraising instead, but his campaign released an ad portraying Cuomo as Pinocchio, after Cuomo misspoke during the endorsement event with Mayor Bloomberg. Cuomo said he had voted for
Bloomberg, but later said he did not.

Finally, a third poll, by Marist College, puts the race somewhere in between the two other polls, showing Cuomo ahead of Paladino by 19 points among likely voters, at 52% to 33%. Even though that's a significant lead, Marist's Lee Miringoff says other factors, including an ill tempered electorate, mean that the race could change in the coming six weeks.

"This is a very unhappy electorate in New York," said Miringoff, who says in addition to concerns about the economy, one in six voters think New York's government is broken beyond repair.

In the end, Cuomo's professed taking it all with a grain of salt philosophy may be the best approach of all, as the governor's race heats up.