“I really think the politics will take care of themselves,” she said, adding that “because the budget is as difficult as it is, that all our delegation and our statewide leaders will be focused on solving those problems. I really do.”
Clearly, Gillibrand didn’t want to wade into the subject with much specificity, and who could blame her? Paterson is the man who single-handedly made her a U.S. senator earlier this year, while her old H.U.D. patron Cuomo is, as poll after poll continues to find, exceedingly likely to emerge from 2010 as the new governor—and the most powerful Democratic Party figure in the state.
But, even if it was intended as vacant non-speak, Gillibrand’s main point is actually spot-on: When it comes to the Paterson-Cuomo drama, the politics probably will take care of themselves, and it is very unlikely that there will be a primary in September 2010.
Not that there isn’t fierce jockeying and gamesmanship between both camps already underway. Cuomo obviously wants to be governor (and has for a long time) and knows that Paterson’s political standing has plummeted to almost unprecedented depths. At the same time, Paterson has made it clear that he wants to keep his job and is now scrambling to fortify himself against a Cuomo insurrection.
But the battle will almost certainly be settled before any votes are cast in the primary or at the state party convention, which will be held around this time next spring. Realistically, there are two paths to resolution, and one is far more likely than the other.
Under the most likely scenario, the same basic dynamics that prevail today will continue to dominate into next year. That would mean Paterson’s approval rating staying in the basement, with Cuomo’s lingering in the stratosphere.
This is the most likely outcome because Paterson has so thoroughly lost the confidence of voters. He in no longer starting from scratch, as he was when he assumed office a year ago and the public was ready to believe in him. He has blown that opportunity, and voters have emphatically given up on him. Winning them back, even if the coming months are more tranquil for Paterson, will be exceedingly difficult. And, given the magnitude of the problems facing the state and his demonstrated on-the-job clumsiness, things are unlikely to get much easier for Paterson.