Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo received the backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg today, on the heels of a new poll that shows his Republican rival gaining support heading into the November election.
Bloomberg cited Cuomo's fight against illegal guns and corruption in Albany, and his financial experience as the reasons for his "strong" endorsement.
"I think he's the kind of effective leader who can clean up the state Capitol, get government working, and get our state back on track," said the mayor. "And that's why I'm endorsing Andrew Cuomo for governor."
The mayor, who had previously said he would stay out of the gubernatorial race, also called on other independents to join the support for the state's current attorney general.
"New Yorkers are angry with Albany, and I think for good reason, but anger is not a governing strategy," said Bloomberg.
"The dysfunction of Albany has metastasized into the corruption of Albany," said Cuomo. "The state government just isn't working. The state government has to change, and that's a comment on both sides of the political aisle."
The announcement comes on the same day as the release of the latest Quinnipiac University survey, which finds likely voters are almost ready to start calling Carl Paladino governor. A few days ago, many New Yorkers did not even know of him.
Now, the Quinnipiac poll finds the Republican nominee is within six percentage points of Cuomo.
The Democrat leads the Republican 49 to 43 percent, with 7 percent undecided. The Quinnipiac poll questioned 751 likely voters from last Thursday through Monday with a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.
According to the poll, voters want change in Albany and believe Paladino can bring it. Moreover, Cuomo is simply not winning the war of putting Republicans and independents in his corner.
Cuomo has Democrats locked up, 87 percent to 8 percent. With Republicans, though, Paladino leads 83 percent to 13 percent. Independents also favor Paladino, 49 percent to 43 percent.
Cuomo attributed Paladino's surge in the poll to his big primary win.
"My opponent has an increase, which I think is to be expected. He had a primary win last week, he got a lot of press. The amount of press you get often shows up in polls," said the Democrat.
Paladino's team chalked up the big bump more to New Yorkers' suspicion whether Cuomo, scion of a political family, can deliver real change to Albany.
"Andrew Cuomo doesn't have the cojones to come out and speak against Carl Paladino. He's been hiding behind his father's coattails for his entire life," said Paladino campaign manager Michael Caputo. "Now that his father's coattails are awfully short, he's reaching out and finding surrogates anywhere he can."
The poll did not include Rick Lazio, who is on the Conservative Party line and could take away votes from Paladino if he ends up running. It also does not include left-leaning candidates who may do the same with Cuomo.
Lazio will not say whether he'll drop his run on the Conservative Party line. The party's chairman says he's been talking with Lazio about stepping aside and supporting Paladino.
Paladino's camp also gloated after it emerged that Cuomo misspoke during the endorsement. Cuomo was asked about his vote in the 2005 mayoral election, when he lived in New York City and Bloomberg ran as a Republican.
"Have I voted for the mayor? Yes. And do I think he's doing an extraordinary job? Yes," said Cuomo.
It turns out that Cuomo stumped for Bloomberg's opponent, Fernando Ferrer.
When it comes to the issues, Cuomo also would not take positions on two key policies Bloomberg backs -- tolling drivers entering Manhattan streets and taxing commuters who work in the city but live in the suburbs.
Still, Bloomberg could emerge as a powerful surrogate, and perhaps equally important, the endorsement may give pause to some would-be Paladino donors.