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Obama's elbow to NY's Gov. Paterson is hardball politics

It reflects an uneasy relationship between the two. And it may lure Andrew Cuomo - and others – to run for the state house in Albany.

By Staff writer / September 20, 2009



In a tricky move with what could be significant political consequences, President Obama has asked New York Governor David Paterson not to run for reelection next year.

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The maneuvering by the White House has a complicated backstory involving a somewhat prickly relationship between Obama and Paterson -- two very prominent African American elected officials. And it could effect the future of other prominent New York State politicians -- chief among them state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and former New York City mayor Rudolph Guliani, both of whom have been considering a run for the state house in Albany.

The story was broken by the New York Times, which reported Saturday that Obama’s message had been conveyed to Paterson by US Rep. Gregory Meeks (D) of Queens.

"It's no secret that Democrats in New York are very concerned about the situation," an Obama administration official told Newsday Sunday. "We share those concerns and those concerns have been conveyed in an appropriate way."

Paterson was the state’s lieutenant governor when he replaced then-governor Eliot Spitzer, who was forced to resign last year because of a prostitution scandal. It’s been a rough road for Paterson ever since.

A recent Marist College poll found that just 20 percent of New York voters approve of Paterson's performance as governor with just 24 percent of Democrats believing that he’s doing well. Seventy percent of those polled said Paterson isn't a viable candidate for election to a full term as governor in 2010, including 65 percent of Democrats.

Meanwhile, a Quinnipiac poll last month showed Cuomo leading Paterson by a four-to-one margin among Democrats in a primary contest for the 2010 governor's race.

One reason: The state’s economy has faltered with unemployment now at the highest level in 26 years.

Among the difficulties between Obama and Paterson: The selection of a replacement for Hillary Rodham Clinton when she resigned as a US senator from New York to become secretary of state. Also, Paterson has said that racism is a factor in the criticism of himself and of Obama. The president has downplayed racism as an issue in the current political climate.

On Sunday, the New York Times reported that Paterson has “defiantly vowed to run for election next year despite the White House’s urging that he withdraw from the New York governor’s race.”

The Times also noted that GOP party chairman Michael Steele “criticized Mr. Obama for trying to drive Mr. Paterson out of office.”

“I found that to be stunning, that the White House would send word to one of only two black governors in the country not to run for re-election,” Mr. Steele said on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday. He also questioned why the White House had not exerted similar pressure on Jon Corzine, the Democratic governor of New Jersey, who has also suffered from very low approval ratings.

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