NEW YORK (AP) — Trying to shed criticism that he was sitting on a lead and a pile of campaign cash, Democrat Andrew Cuomo emerged this week with daily public events as a new poll shows he may be reclaiming momentum in the race for New York governor.
Meanwhile, tea party Republican Carl Paladino is trying to soften his "mad as hell" persona after video of his confrontation with a reporter went viral.
"This is the kinder and gentler Carl you're talking to," Paladino said Tuesday at a business leaders' breakfast in Manhattan.
It was a surprising switch for the straight-talking political novice, who has successfully appealed to angry voters with promises to "take a baseball bat" to Albany's corruption, dysfunction, overtaxing and career politicians.
Then, as Cuomo did Monday, Paladino threw more bombs immediately after declaring a truce in the dirtiest statewide campaign in memory.
Paladino called Cuomo a "phony," said again that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is a "criminal" and warned that members in a "corrupted" Legislature had better not "mess with me." In answer to a question, he said he wouldn't sign a gay marriage law, but he'd enforce one if it was approved in a public referendum because lawmakers "right now, they're not competent to do the people's work."
It's the same rhetoric the 64-year-old millionaire developer from Buffalo used for months to ride voter discontent over the recession, record high taxes and gridlocking partisanship.
Cuomo, 52, spent the last several days in publicly announced meetings with clergy and minority leaders as he tries to paint Paladino as an extremist. He released his jobs plan Monday and his ethics reform policy Tuesday, while his surrogates continued to try to take a bat to Paladino's campaign.
What appears to be a jump-start for Cuomo's campaign comes after Friday's finance filings showed he has $20 million to spend in the closing weeks of the race. The filings show he has received money from supporters with bold-faced names, including Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka; former Democratic Mayor Ed Koch; and former CNBC talk show host Donald J. Deutsch, according to a Newsday analysis.
A Siena College poll released Tuesday found Cuomo with a comfortable advantage over Paladino: 56 percent to 32 percent among likely voters.
The survey was conducted after last week's confrontation between Paladino and a New York Post reporter was captured on video and went viral. Although Paladino insists he was defending his 10-year-old daughter from tabloid photographers who had invaded her privacy and speaking out against a reporter's bias for Cuomo — both of which were denied by the newspaper — the angry exchange on Sept. 29 derailed what would have been a string of Paladino wins.
He had just cemented the critical Conservative Party endorsement after the Republican primary win, which created momentum that Cuomo's campaign couldn't seem to handle. Before the video, a Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters found Paladino within six points of Cuomo.
Paladino spokesman Michael Caputo acknowledged a downturn from the video but said it wasn't as big a hit as the Siena poll indicates.
However, Siena pollster Steven Greenberg said the effects of the confrontation were pronounced.
"What we saw in the course of the last several days is that Paladino's momentum has been completely stopped and I think that you see from the Cuomo campaign an effort to make sure he cannot regain his footing," Greenberg said.
Sixty-one percent of voters agreed that Paladino is, in the words of one of the poll's questions, a "loose cannon, who doesn't have the temperament to be governor."
"But there's still time," Greenberg said.
He noted there is also opportunity: Cuomo's approval rating after weeks of using surrogates to attack Paladino is down, too, at 56 percent. That's usually a concern for a well-known politician like the attorney general, although Greenberg notes this is a year where incumbency can be a disadvantage.
The poll conducted Sunday and Monday has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
Gormley contributed from Albany, N.Y.
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