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Cuomo, Astorino paths diverge after only face-to-face encounter

ALBANY – A day after their one and only debate, Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Republican candidate Rob Astorino took their campaign tours in decidedly different directions Thursday.

For Astorino, who declared himself the winner of the Buffalo debate, it was a day of outreach to potential donors to try to persuade them to give more money after his debate performance and to press a theme that Cuomo showed New Yorkers a nasty side of his personality they are not accustomed to witnessing.

For the governor, though, it was a day to move on and drop any suggestions of further debates, while he focused on rallying women voters with the help of a powerful Democratic weapon: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The former secretary of state, U.S. senator from New York and first lady endorsed Cuomo, who was federal housing secretary in the administration of her husband, President Bill Clinton.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the governor is the right leader at the right time with the right plan to keep New York moving forward,”’ Clinton said.

Astorino said a “flood of donations” has come in since the end of the 60-minute debate.

“They saw the real angry Andrew come out in all its glory,” Astorino told reporters during a brief stop at the Capitol on Thursday afternoon. The Westchester County executive accused Cuomo of lying and playing the race card throughout the debate. “You can see how he’s panicking, how he’s pandering,” Astorino said

Astorino said Cuomo has an “obligation” to voters to engage in another televised debate with him before Election Day, a request that would seem all but impossible with the election less than two weeks away.

Astorino said the format of Wednesday’s debate was too limiting, did not allow for give-and-take and, with four people onstage, prevented major issues such as gun control from being discussed.

He did not reveal the level of donations his campaign has received since Wednesday night. One donation that did pop up on a 24-hour reporting system now in place at the state Board of Elections was $5,000 from the National Rifle Association’s political action committee in Virginia. By Wednesday afternoon, Astorino reported received a total of $27,000 over the previous 24 hours from various sources including the NRA contribution.

Cuomo said he has no interest in any one-on-one debates that would exclude other candidates on the ballot. “I offered to do two. He chose to do one. That is a fact so you can go ask him why he only does one,” Cuomo said Thursday.

Astorino rejected a one-on-one debate on a New York City public radio program because he said Cuomo refused to let any cameras film the debate and that Cuomo was not even going to be in the studio during the session.

Astorino said he believes that his campaign is peaking with voters right when it needs to: at the end. He noted that recent polls have shown slippage in Cuomo’s lead, though it is still at least 20 percentage points, and that the governor’s favorability and job-performance ratings among likely voters also have declined.

Astorino said Cuomo’s tone in the debate, as well as the barrage of negative ads the governor’s campaign is running against him, make it clear that the governor is worried about the outcome of the election. He said Cuomo is in trouble with the left in his own party and will not win over upstate voters. “Why would anyone upstate vote for this governor who has made it worse for them?” Astorino said.

Astorino said Cuomo’s appearance with Clinton was timed to provide a distraction for Wednesday night’s debate performance, which he said showed the governor is “transactional” and needs to be replaced.

Despite some tensions with Senate Republican co-leader Dean G. Skelos of Nassau County, Astorino said his campaign is coordinating get-out-the-vote efforts with GOP Senate candidates who are in especially close races upstate and on Long Island. “They want and need me to do very well,” he said.

Astorino warned of the possibilities of a Democratic takeover in the Senate, which would give the party control of both houses of the State Legislature. “We need a Republican Senate,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s going to be madness in this building if Democrats control everything.”

Before the day’s end, Cuomo released a booklet outlining a series of existing programs to expand or new ones to start that he said will be among his priorities in a second term. Among the ideas are a $1.5 billion fund to be used to help other upstate areas in a program modeled on his Buffalo Billion initiative and $500 million to help localities streamline services.

Republicans criticized the proposals as vague and ill-timed so late in the campaign and after Wednesday’s debate, where they could have been discussed.