Gov. David Paterson, facing low poll numbers and unprecedented pressure from the White House to stand down in next year's election, says he's undeterred and still has every intention of running in next year's gubernatorial race.
"You don't give up because you have low poll numbers. You don't give up because everybody's telling you what the future is," a fiery Paterson said on NBC's Meet the Press this morning. He said he has "every intention" of running for governor in 2010.
"I am not going to run away from a fight when I know who I'm fighting for," Paterson said. He said his priorities remain shoring up a massive deficit, cutting spending and helping New York move out of the economic downturn.
Asked directly about whether the White House was pressuring him to step out of the race, Paterson said "the president has never told me not to run for governor."
But, "they certainly sent a message that they have concerns," he said.
"I'm blind but I'm not oblivious," he said. "I've had conversations with them, but I think the people of State of New York are the ones who should choose their governor."
The White House, and reportedly other Democratic leaders, have been concerned that Paterson's flagging poll numbers could hand the governorship -- and control of the Senate and much more -- back to the Republicans.
Paterson said he thinks governors across the country are being forced to make hard fiscal decisions during the recession and he said the political turmoil in the state, which also included a five-week meltdown in the State Senate this summer, has only strengthened his resolve.
"I think that the people of the state of New York are the ones who should choose their governor," Paterson said.
In response to a question about whether Paterson stood behind an earlier statement in which he said that he thought race was a factor in some of political troubles, New York's first African American governor said the statement had been taken out of context.
"I don't think race has been a factor in my poll numbers or my political fortunes or how I govern the state," he said.
Paterson, who came into office after former Gov. Eliot Spitzer stepped down amid a prostitution scandal, has still loved leading the state, even through the challenges. "It has been the most exciting time in my life," Paterson said yesterday, according to the Daily News. "It has been the most challenging time in my life … I'm gonna keep doing it until the public tells me it's time to stop."
Paterson also dismissed rumors that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo had helped focus pressure from Washington on his administration in Albany.
"I don't think [the] attorney general had any connection to this at all," the governor said at an event in Queens yesterday. "I said that there were people that had that kind of access, and I don't believe that they actually used it, but really, in the end, what would I know?"