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Poll shows Cuomo with 2-1 lead over Paterson

Gov. David A. Paterson's recent slide in the polls continues, with the latest survey of voters showing him trailing Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo by a 2-1 ratio in a hypothetical 2010 Democratic primary matchup.

Quinnipiac University's polling institute Tuesday said Cuomo leads Paterson by 32 percentage points, 55-23, in a possible 2010 primary contest. Cuomo has not said whether he is interested in running for governor next year, though many Democrats believe he is positioning himself for such a run.

Quinnipiac polling spokesman Maurice Carroll blamed part of Paterson's problem with voters on fallout from the recent debacle over the selection of a new senator to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Voters disapproved, by 52 percent to 35 percent, of the way Paterson handled the appointment process. That process ended with leaks from advisers close to the governor about rumored personal problems that might have contributed to Caroline Kennedy's dropping out of the running for the job. Sixty-four percent of voters in the new poll said they found those leaks unfair.

The numbers don't fare much better for Paterson in a general election contest. He is tied in a possible matchup with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 43 percent. Among upstate voters, Giuliani, a Republican, holds a 47-38 lead.

The governor's job-approval rating also has slipped, with just 45 percent saying they approve of the way he is handling his duties. That is his lowest level since taking office last March, and down from a 64 percent approval rating last August.

His choice for Clinton's successor as U.S. senator, Kirsten E. Gillibrand, received the support of 45 percent of voters, with 33 percent opposed and 22 percent undecided.

The Quinnipiac poll follows findings several weeks ago by the Siena College Research Institute of erosion in Paterson's support when matched against Cuomo. That poll showed Paterson with a 2-point advantage, 35-33, in a hypothetical 2010 Democratic primary contest.

"What this means is bad news for Paterson," Carroll said of the latest numbers. "There's plenty of time for him to turn it around, but this is bad."

Much is riding on the next month or so for the governor regarding negotiations with the Legislature for a 2009-10 budget. What combination of cuts and tax increases gets into the final deal, and whether they can deliver an on-time budget by March 31, will have a major impact on the state's political scene.

"If he can't win the budget, I don't think he runs again," Carroll said.

Paterson sought to pin the blame for his falling numbers on the state's fiscal problems, which he said have led him to propose cutting a number of popular programs. He also lamented negative media coverage and ad campaigns by special-interest groups that take the context out of the state's fiscal crisis. He has struck back at those ads, in particular one run by a health care workers union that features a blind person in a wheelchair.

He said those ads and the poll results will not deter him from pushing his budget-balancing plan.

"I will run," Paterson said of 2010, but "I'm not focused on the 2010 campaign because it's not 2010, and I really should be working on the budget and not a campaign."

Speaking with reporters in Manhattan, Paterson said his administration also enjoyed no transition period after the sudden resignation in a sex scandal last March of then-Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer and the quickly developing economic problems that hit the state budget amid the national recession.

e-mail: tprecious@buffnews.com

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