Paterson Should Resist Getting Rolled by the Polls

Paterson's losing the popularity contest

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AP
    President Barack Obama greeted Gov. David Paterson as he arrived in Albany on Monday.

    The effort by the White House to derail David Paterson’s bid to continue being Governor of New York makes it clear that there is a fourth branch of government -- after the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches.

    It’s the polls.

    President Barack Obama wants to get Paterson to drop out of the race for governor in 2010 because his numbers are sagging. The pollsters have found that Paterson is not popular.

    It’s infuriating that we have moved in recent years to a system in which poll numbers are more important than how the people actually vote in an election. The next election for governor won’t take place until the end of 2010 -- but the president’s aides are impatient. They think Paterson’s bad numbers will affect the Democratic candidates for Congress -- and ultimately hurt Obama’s legislative power and chances for re-election. So the White House has been pushing and prodding Paterson to get the heck out -- now.

    To its credit, the Marist Poll has just asked New Yorkers what they think about the White House maneuvers. And an impressive 62 percent said it was wrong for the President to try to force Paterson out.  However, the Marist survey also finds that Paterson’s job approval rating is just 17 percent. Interestingly, the same survey shows that Obama’s approval rating has dropped five points to 52 percent.

    Without polls, of course, pundits might have little to talk about. That could take some of the fun out of cable news shows.
     
    Clearly, though, the Governor’s wife, Michelle, isn’t the only New Yorker incensed by the President’s effort to dump David Paterson. We New Yorkers don’t like being told what’s best for us by an outsider, even if he happens to be the President of the United States.
     
    Paterson may have his flaws. He took office after a popular governor fell from grace. When the legislature fell into disarray, he could do little to fix it. But it does seem unfair to blame Paterson for that. The Espadas and the Monserrates, and their allies, were the guilty parties. Their sins are not Paterson’s.
     
    Paterson is 54 years old. He’s had to struggle all his life, overcoming the blindness that struck him as a child, going on to excel in regular schools, getting a law degree, advancing through the ranks in the political world.
     
    It’s decidedly unfair to blame Paterson for all the problems of Albany -- or the world. In the age of 24-hour news cycles, these stories have a way of perpetuating themselves. First, there is a poll. Then, comes a reaction from the local politicians, and later, the White House. The pundits and politicians feast on the numbers, while behind the scenes, skulduggery may be afoot. We, in the press, react. Perhaps, another poll. The cycle continues. In the practice of bogus journalism, these phases are inevitable.

    The Governor has been a fighter all his life. And, New Yorkers are fighters too. They may yet relate to this man and his story. It’s not too late for David Paterson to turn this situation around.
     
    Perhaps he’s no bargain. It could well be that Andrew Cuomo, the state attorney general, would make a better governor. But that should await a fair contest. To have the President try to fix the fight is reprehensible.

    I doubt that New Yorkers will accept it.