Gov. David Paterson took aim for the first time this morning at potential rival Andrew Cuomo's reluctance to announce a possible gubernatorial run, even as a recent poll shows the incumbent is trailing among all voters.
In an interview with WOR's John Gambling, Paterson accused Cuomo of "silently hiding" by delaying an official announcement that he'll run for governor. He questioned his leadership and positions on major issues facing the state, bringing up the cash-strapped MTA -- a timely issue as the agency's new budget was released yesterday indicating it now faces a $400 million shortfall.
"Why do you think he's staying out?" asked Paterson. "What does Andrew Cuomo think about the way to pay for the MTA? He doesn't have an opinion."
This was the first time Paterson has publicly challenged Cuomo, who hasn't even officially announced he's running. Last month, Paterson's campaign manager, Richard Fife, tried to smoke the attorney general out, saying, "It's clear Mr. Cuomo is running for Governor, it's time for him to stop ducking the hard questions of how he would close a $7.4 billion deficit, balance the budget and pass ethical and fiscal reforms."
Political analysts expect Cuomo will become an actual candidate within the next eight weeks.
A Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday shows the Attorney General clobbering the current governor 55% to 23%. A poll by Marist has Paterson trailing Cuomo by an even larger amount, 70% to 23%.
Paterson's standing with African-American voters is also vulnerable. Cuomo has a higher approval rating than Paterson, leading 78% to 60%, although black Democrats say they prefer the governor 42% to 34%.
While many politicians, including Rep. Charles Rangel, warned the governors races will be divided along racial lines, 80% of voters --and a staggering 73% of black voters --don't agree that the primary would be racially divisive.
"In the Democratic match-up - Cuomo v Paterson - the Attorney General continues his lop-sided lead," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Plus, Cuomo's job approval is good and Paterson's isn't."
Paterson defended his work as governor and his approval ratings this morning, pointing out the role of the Attorney General is to be a crime-fighting good guy.
"Attorney generals are in the media when they are arresting people, and we're all for arresting criminals and that's fine," Paterson said. "This is a tough tough time to be governor, probably the toughest in the history of this state, and the one thing I want known about me is that I don't run away from any questions. I don't run away from a fight."