Finally, the gloves come off. After weeks of standing by as GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino ripped Andrew Cuomo with one personal attack after another, the state attorney general strikes back today with his first negative ad against his opponent.
The commercial, which portrays Paladino as a disingenuous "welfare king who got rich by milking New York taxpayers," airs in the wake of two polls that paint a very different picture of the race for governor.
A Quinnipiac University poll out Wednesday showed a surge in support for Paladino, with Cuomo clinging to a mere six-point lead. On Thursday, a Sienna College poll indicated Cuomo had plenty of breathing room, comfortably ahead of his Republican opponent by a margin of two to one.
For a third perspective, the Marist College poll conducted its own survey on the race and found results most closely aligned with the ones released by Sienna. The Marist poll released Friday found Cuomo with a healthy double-digit lead over Paladino (52 percent to 33 percent).
Paladino has been on the offensive since earning his party's nomination, spewing vitriol and demeaning Cuomo in cartoonish ads that mock the Democrat's father, question his manhood and ask whether he has the "cojones" to engage in a televised debate.
Cuomo eventually decided to fight back, ripping off the gloves with a bare-knuckled statewide attack ad that claims his Republican rival benefited from the type of insider Albany deals he publicly condemns, including one in which he received a $1.4 million state tax break that was revoked after the Buffalo project only created one job.
The Paladino camp does not dispute the facts but argues the ad does not accurately show the broader impact of the tax break on the local economy. Rather than seeming defensive, Paladino actually appeared keyed up that Cuomo has entered the fray.
"As long as he wants to play the tit-for-tat game, we've got a whole box of ammunition here that we're just going to throw right back at him," Paladino said on upstate YNN's "Capital Tonight" Thursday evening.
Conservative candidate Rick Lazio earned 9 percent of the vote in the Marist poll, compared with 8 percent in the Siena poll. The Quinnipiac poll unveiled Wednesday did not factor Lazio, who faces pressure to bow out of the race to clear the field for Paladino, into the equation.
"Andrew Cuomo is ahead, and right now, this is not a close race," Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said in a statement. "He is being bolstered by the Lazio factor, but he is just above 50 percent among likely voters, and you can't overlook the enthusiasm Republicans are bringing to this election cycle."