In what can only be interpreted as an attempt to stop what the President’s strategists see as troubling mid-term election results, members of the administration have addressed what the call “The David Paterson Problem” and asked New York Governor David Paterson to pull out of next year’s race for Governor and on Monday the President’s chief strategist will meet privately meet with the Governor.
According to the New York Times “The decision to ask Mr. Paterson to step aside was proposed by political advisers to Mr. Obama, but approved by the president himself”
The Times confirmed that the President is concerned with Governor Paterson’s standing in the state and quote one source as saying “The president’s request (for Paterson to not run) was conveyed to the Mr. Paterson by Representative Gregory W. Meeks, a Queens Democrat, who has developed a strong relationship with the Obama administration”.
In a WCBS radio interview, Governor Paterson did confirm that he has had private conversations with the administration but he stated that he will not discuss the content of any private conversations.
The request for Paterson to step aside and not run is an extraordinary one. Normally, Presidents do not make such requests. On the rare occasion that they have, the reasoning was due to the involvement of criminal conduct. The drama involving impeached former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is such an example. However; in this case, although Paterson came into office because of the criminal conduct of his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, such is not the reason the administration is urging Paterson to drop out. The reasons are purely political and a sign of a White House that is preparing for a bruising in 2010.
Paterson’s poll number are horrific. A Siena Research Institute poll found 55 percent of registered voters had an unfavorable opinion of the governor while only 32 percent viewed him favorably. The same poll also makes it clear that Paterson’s likely opponent for the job, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, trounces the Governor in a head to head match up.
These numbers do not concern the White House in so far as how they pertain to Paterson personally.
They concern the White House because these numbers scare the hell out of them in regards to how poorly Paterson’s presence effect will congressional races, down ticket from the race for governor next year, during mid-term elections.
In addition to all members of the House of Representatives being up for relection, New York has two races for U.S. Senate being held. One is for the expired term of New York state’s senior senator, Chuck Schumer and the other is to fill out the unexpired term of former Senator and now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In that race, Democrats will be trying to keep Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in office. Giilibrand was the hand picked choice who Paterson appointed to the fill the vacancy.
Clearly if the President hopes to at least keep some of his parties congressional and senate seats from New York, a strong top of their ticket will be crucial. It is also clear to him and his political strategists that having David Paterson at the top of the ballot will not make for a “strong” ticket, it will make for a disastrous one.
Given all the facts, fear can be the only reason for the almost unprecedented White House request for a sitting Governor of their own party to step aside. The administration is apparently fearful of a repeat of the 1994 mid-term elections which brought Republicans in control of both houses of Congress for the first time in four decades. Much of the reasoning for that occurrence was do in large part to the then Clinton administration’s attempt to, much like this administration, adopt partisan health management and care reform.
As the President’s own numbers become wobbly and as Democrats tie HR 3200 to their hip, the political wing of the President’s staff is apparently trying to avoid a repeat of history in next year’s elections. The request for Paterson to step aside is just the first sign of that.
Under normal circumstances a sitting President would not ask one of the only two African-American governors in the country to step aside. And under normal circumstances even bad poll numbers would not prompt such a request. Case in point: New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has poll numbers that almost parallel David Paterson’s. Yet despite those poor polling numbers, President Obama has been steadfast behind Governor Corzine as he runs for reelection this year. The President has even shown up for a rally in support of Corzine. But the Governor of New Jersey is not running for reelection next year when congressional seats are up for grabs. That means Corzine’s lagging candidacy is not a threat to the balance of power in Washington. Not yet anyway.
These facts demonstrate that the White House is scared and that strategists for the President are trying to stop the hemorrhaging of support and popularity that could punish Democrats next November. If such was not the case President Obama would be cheering Governor Paterson on and urging him to keep up the good work, even without there being much good work to speak of.
Of course, in light of the arguments of the left, President Obama’s request for Governor Paterson to step aside could be blamed on racism. If President Carter is right about the reason for people disagreeing with President Obama being because Obama is black, than clearly the reason President Obama disagrees with Paterson is because he is black. Or maybe the President has prejudices against the blind and disagrees with David Paterson because he is legally blind.
Personally I will give President Obama the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is not asking the incumbent New York Governor to give up attempts to run again because of his color or disability. That would leave the fear factor as the reason for the unusual actions of the White House.
For his part, Governor Paterson told WCBS Radio News, that he is running for Governor and has no plans on pulling out. That will make for an interesting New York primary.
Former Governor Mario Cuomo’s son Andrew Cuomo, the state’s Attorney General, is likely to defeat Paterson and secure the Democrat nomination for Governor. But such a primary will create a divide that will form along lines of race. It could also effect Kristen Gillibrand’s election. Some Democrats are looking at a challenging her for the Democrat nomination. If that challenge were to materialize, as David Paterson’s candidate, Kristen Gillibrand could have some trouble of her own on her hands.
Strategically, the implications of Paterson’s refusal to step aside and to continue with an inevitable primary, are problematic. The unorthodox steps that President Obama has taken by interjecting himself into the New York gubernatorial primary is proof of just how problematic. It is also a sign that the President and Democrat strategists are beginning to sweat.