How much things can change in just a year.
Just last year, Time magazine called Gov. David Paterson popular and affable, an "asset" to the state of New York, a "welcome change in Albany."
The Albany Times-Union hailed his order that New York state recognize gay marriages as a "clear and bold step" toward equal rights. The New York Post reported that Sen. Charles Schumer said Paterson would "go down in history ... as one of the greatest governors that New York state has ever seen."
Fast-forward to fall 2009, when Paterson is about as popular as Kanye West at a Taylor Swift concert. When word came down from the White House last week that the Obama administration would prefer Paterson not seek re-election, it may have been the final blow for the beleaguered governor.
Paterson has already made headlines for his abysmal approval ratings, which show that many New Yorkers are already remembering Eliot Spitzer's tenure fondly by comparison. When your electorate would rather be governed by a deceiving womanizer, you know you're in political trouble.
It's painfully apparent why the White House would rather not see Paterson face off against Andrew Cuomo in a Democratic primary. The race would drain Democratic coffers, and a bitter primary battle could poison many voters against Cuomo, leaving him vulnerable to a powerful Republican opponent such as Rudy Giuliani.
While we understand the Democrats' desire to be rid of the unpopular Paterson, New Yorkers may be getting tired of the White House's heavy hand in its political affairs. President Barack Obama had already drawn criticism for asking Rep. Steve Israel not to challenge Kirsten Gillibrand in a primary, citing reasons similar to those directed at Paterson. The difference is that, while Israel heeded the president's request, Paterson has decided _ at least for now _ to stand firm.
Although Rep. Gregory Meeks told the Daily News that he didn't exactly demand that Paterson start packing his bags, the message from the White House came through loud and clear: we're not behind you. Meeks has protested that it's up to Paterson in the end, even characterizing his discussion with the governor as nothing more than "telling a friend what the issues are." As if Paterson doesn't already know.
The message may have been delivered clumsily, but we're forced to agree with the White House's opinion. New York Democrats would be better served by avoiding a primary battle. We hope Paterson reconciles himself to this reality and can leave the governor's office with a little dignity intact.