Defying President Obama, who has urged him not to run, Gov. David A. Paterson told a national television audience Sunday that he is in next year's gubernatorial race to stay.
"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," Paterson said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
While some Democrats in the state privately hoped Paterson would use the television interview to back off from seeking election, the governor said Obama never told him directly he should not run. Pressed by moderator David Gregory about conversations two weeks ago with a White House political operative, Paterson replied that he "can't say" whether the president wants him to run.
"I'm blind, but I'm not oblivious," Paterson said, alluding to his vision problems. "I know there are people who don't want me to run."
But the governor said the decision is not up to the White House. "I think that the people of the State of New York are the ones who should choose their governor," Paterson said.
The governor, known for going off script on occasion, hewed to the mantra he had repeated for several days: The polls are bad, but he believes he can turn them around, and he is not thinking about abandoning the campaign.
"The White House has a country to run, and I have a state to run, and there's politics to go on all the time," Paterson said. But, he added, "I've never gotten an explicit indication authorized from the White House that I shouldn't run."
At a meeting two weeks ago in Manhattan with Patrick Gaspard, the White House political director, Paterson was told that Obama had lost confidence in his ability to win the election next year. Last week, on a visit to an Albany-area college, the president gave several obvious signals that he and Paterson were far from the closest political allies.
"They certainly sent a message that they have concerns," Paterson said of the White House.
But, he said, governors across the country are in political difficulty because they have been forced to make hard fiscal decisions during the recession. He stepped up his insistence that New York has fared better than some other states, which have deeply cut education programs, laid off workers or released prison inmates to save money.
The governor brushed aside a question on whether he thought Obama was wrongto get involved in state politics, but noted a Marist College poll that last week showed most of the state's voters say they think the president over-extended his reach.
"I'm not going to say I haven't had a difficult week," Paterson said, but added that many New Yorkers have had a far more difficult week coping with the recession.
A few days after suggesting he would consider not running if he thought his candidacy would hurt the electoral prospects of others, Paterson said, "I don't think I'm a drag on my party. I think I'm standing up for my party's priorities."
Paterson, the state's first African-American governor, recently said he believes his race is a factor in some of the political problems he has faced, and he suggested Obama would encounter similar difficulties. The White House quickly reached out to Paterson to express its displeasure.
In the Sunday interview, Paterson said, "I don't think race has been a factor in my poll numbers or my political fortunes or how I govern the state," but added he and his family have been subjected to stereotyping.
The governor noted that high school guidance counselors had suggested he not go to college and that people never thought Democrats could take over the State Senate, which they did last year.
"I've spent a whole life being told I can't do things," he said. "You don't give up because everybody's telling you what the future is."