Wow. The race that everyone long ago decided would be a cakewalk for hugely popular Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has turned into ... a race! One in which the outcome is not certain months in advance! Fresh off the heels of a Rasmussen poll that showed very angry Buffalo real-estate mogul Carl Paladino down by sixteen points, Quinnipiac's first poll of the general election has Paladino down by just six points among likely voters. What happened here?
One, the shift from polling registered voters to "likely" voters as the election nears has benefited GOP candidates this year, since Republican voters are generally much more enthusiastic than Democratic voters. Two, Paladino may have received a temporary bounce from his primary win, as is common. Three, voters by a wide margin place "change" as their No. 1 priority, and Paladino, a political outsider if there ever was one, seems to embody it more than Cuomo, who, despite never having served as governor before, may be seen as something of an incumbent. As Quinnipiac polling's Mickey Caroll explains:
"Attorney General Andrew Cuomo might be a victim of his own excess. Politicians and polls have depicted him so relentlessly as a sure thing that he might be a victim of the 'throw the bums out' attitude that hits incumbents in this angry year."
But even though red flashing lights are going off at Cuomo campaign headquarters right now, it's not all bad for the Democrat. For one thing, Quinnipiac, like Rasmussen, did not include Rick Lazio in the poll. Lazio, though he lost the GOP primary to Paladino, had already won the nomination for the Conservative Party, and his name will be on the ballot on its line that is, unless GOP pressure for him to cede it to Paladino succeeds. Though about as exciting as sandpaper, he would draw tens of thousands of votes from Republicans who look to the Conservative line each year.
Additionally, 31 percent of voters still say they don't know enough about Paladino to form an opinion on him, giving Cuomo the opportunity to define the tea partier as an unqualified despot/radical/bigot/pervert/whatever. That huge war chest Cuomo is sitting on? Looks like it's time to crack it open.