Yet another poll was released of New York’s gubernatorial race and - surprise surprise - the results are disastrous for Governor David Paterson. Two weeks ago, a Siena poll found him trailing Rudy Giuliani by 15% while Andrew Cuomo led by 13%. But Manhattanville managed to find an even larger differential between the two Democrats’ general election performance:
- Giuliani leads 50% to 36% against Paterson, but he trails 51% to 36% against Cuomo - quite a dramatic differential of 29% and one that once again labels the Governor as one of the most endangered incumbents in the country.
- Thankfully for the Governor, Manhattanville did not test a Democratic primary match-up between Cuomo and Paterson. (Siena and Quinnipiac had Cuomo leading by 32% and 26%.) Yet, the survey does find that Paterson’s approval rating has collapsed to a dismal 29%, with 66% of respondents disapproving of his performance.
We might not have heard much about Giuliani over the past few months, but Cuomo is starting to spark speculation that he is planning for a gubernatorial run. (I wrote about some of the tea leaves two days ago.) And how could he not run when poll after poll shows that the only way for Democrats to keep the Governor’s Mansion is for a strong Democrat to take out the incumbent in the primary? Had Cuomo broached the subject last fall, the state’s Democratic figures would have warned him against dividing the party; now, they are likely to beg him to join the race.
However familiar we have become to Paterson’s catastrophic numbers, it remains somewhat difficult to pinpoint to the exact reasons that pushed him downward. How much of it was caused by the Senate appointment saga? Are voters holding him responsible for the state’s budgetary crisis? Manhattanville tried to answer some of these questions with a very useful device: an open-ended question. The pollsters asked respondents what they did or did not like about the Governor. The top three responses are:
- Budget cuts mostly notably the health-care cuts and educations cuts
- Tax increases
- His leadership ability and style particularly his indecisiveness with some believing is not qualified for the job.
More precisely 40% say they have changed their opinion of Paterson because of his handling of the budget (whether tax increases or budget cuts), and 17% cite the Senate appointment saga.
In short, Paterson is experiencing two problems: First, like most of the nation’s Governors, his approval ratings are falling due to the financial crisis and the fact that the state is facing budgetary woes. The fact that he has made unpopular choices and has reversed himself plenty of times is certainly not helping the situation.
But Paterson’s situation is made all the more dangerous because his reputation for competence that has been durably damaged. In reacting to the Senate appointment saga, it is not so much Kennedy’s treatment or Gillibrand’s choice that voters are objecting to (polls showed that voters did not want Kennedy, while newer surveys suggest Gillibrand is not experiencing a Paterson-like fall in popularity), but the indecisiveness Paterson demonstrated throughout the process.
Perhaps Paterson could be comforted by the fact that all of the country’s executives are looking weaker by the day (an issue that certainly deserves a post of its own one of these days). A new survey of Michigan’s gubernatorial race sponsored by the newsletter Inside Michigan politics suggests that Lieutenant Governor John Cherry would leave Democrats in a weak position if he got their nomination:
- Cherry trails three Republican contenders: Attorney General Mike Cox is ahead 41% to 34%, Secretary of State Terri Lynn is ahead 39% to 34%, and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson is ahead 38% to 34%.
- In a GOP primary, Patterson gets 22%, U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra (who was not tested in g-e match-ups) gets 17%, Cox gets 15%.
Michigan’s gubernatorial race will be open because Jennifer Granholm is term-limited out of office. It is already seen as one of the most competitive contests of the 2010 contest, and this first survey should confirm that. This is the type of race in which much will depend on the economic situation, and Democrats will be very endangered if the crisis is as bad in 2010 as it is today: As they have long controlled Michigan’s political process, they risk getting the lion’s share of the blame.