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Voters fault Obama bid to dump Paterson State Poll Finds Most Oppose 'Meddling' But job approval rating for governor drops to 17%

The state's voters have a simple message for President Obama: Stay out of the Empire State's gubernatorial politics.

A Marist College poll released Thursday found 62 percent of voters say Obama was wrong to insert himself into State Democratic Party matters by spreading word that he has lost faith in Gov. David A. Paterson's ability to win next year.

The poll found that even 51 percent of Democrats in New York, one of the nation's bluest states, say Obama is "meddling."

While the governor may find some comfort in those numbers, the poll also found his approval rating at a new low. Just 17 percent of voters say he is doing a good or excellent job, down from 20 percent earlier this month. Forty-four percent say his performance is poor.

The controversy over the White House's loss of confidence in Paterson's political abilities continues, with Paterson trying a new spin Thursday: It sort of didn't happen the way it has been portrayed in the media.

The governor noted, again, that Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, a Queens Democrat, did not tell him at a dinner last Friday that the White House did not want him to run next year, as the New York Times reported Sunday. Earlier this week, Meeks sided with Paterson on that point, although he acknowledged concerns about Paterson's political troubles.

The key meeting, however, was a Sept. 14 session between Paterson and Patrick Gaspard, at which Obama's concerns about a Paterson candidacy next year initially were raised directly with the governor.

"I was never asked by an authorized person not to run," Paterson told WOR radio in New York on Thursday.

He did not elaborate what he meant by "authorized." The White House has not attempted to reel in the controversy, and in a visit Monday to the Albany area, Obama snubbed the governor several times.

As on past occasions, Paterson turned Thursday to radio interviews.

A day after he said people close to State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, who has an interest in running for governor, had some role in a leak about Obama's concerns, the governor told New York's WCBS that he found it "comforting" that Cuomo's office subsequently denied any involvement.

Paterson said he doesn't know whether Cuomo will run for governor. He said Cuomo "has been a very effective attorney general, and he is rewarded with very high public approval ratings."

But, in a not-so-subtle dig, he added that, unlike him, Cuomo has "not had to make the tough decisions." As governor, Paterson noted, he has presided over a period of fiscal turmoil that has resulted in cutting popular programs, alienating powerful groups like unions.

"You do enough of that, and believe me, you will be unpopular," Paterson said.

A Cuomo official declined to comment.

While pressing ahead with a media blitz to talk about a matter that he said has left his wife "pretty upset," Paterson had no plans to let up.

Sunday, he will appear on "Meet the Press." Democrats also are wondering whether the controversy will prompt this week's season premiere of "Saturday Night Live" to poke fun at Paterson, as it has in the past.

Next week, all eyes will be on Buffalo, the scene of the annual fall meeting of the State Democratic Party. Both Paterson and Cuomo are expected to attend, and behind the scenes in Albany, jockeying by their supporters already was under way in planning events to showcase what next year could wind up in a primary showdown between the two Democrats.

Obama, meanwhile, reportedly is worried that Paterson could drag down others on the party's line, including U.S. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, several members of Congress and state senators.

The new Marist poll, in fact, found Gillibrand losing in hypothetical matchups against two Republicans: former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani -- 51 percent to 40 percent -- and former Gov. George E. Pataki -- 45 percent to 41 percent. The survey of 616 registered voters throughout the state had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

On the Paterson-Obama controversy, 27 percent say Obama's involvement in state party matters was all right; 11 percent were unsure. A large majority of Republicans -- 77 percent -- and 64 percent of independents say Obama should butt out of state politics.

While they don't like the White House's methods, voters remain sour on Paterson. Sixty-three percent don't want him to run next year. While a defiant Paterson said Wednesday he believes it is now his "mission" to run next year, 43 percent of voters say they think he will hurt the Democratic ticket. But 41 percent say his candidacy will not have a negative impact on other Democrats if he runs.

Only a quarter of voters want Paterson to run. The governor said this week he understands voters are upset over the sour fiscal news from Albany over the past year. But he talked of spreading the word that the state is much better off compared with others that have gotten in deeper trouble since the recession.

The president's standing, meanwhile, also slipped a bit among voters in this state. Fifty-two percent give him a favorable job rating, compared with 46 percent who rate him poorly.

The favorable rating is off 5 percentage points from earlier this month.


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