ALBANY, N.Y. — Democrat Andrew Cuomo sought to bolster his appeal among independents Wednesday in the race for New York governor with an endorsement from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as a new poll showed tea party Republican Carl Paladino gaining ground.
Cuomo held the Bloomberg announcement just hours after the poll results were released. Soon after, Cuomo had to retract his statement during the event that he had once voted for Bloomberg.
The candidate appeared in Manhattan with the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent Bloomberg, a three-term popular billionaire mayor. The pair tried to showcase Bloomberg's bipartisan appeal and link it to Cuomo, with the mayor praising him as the candidate who "knows that real change requires reaching across the aisle."
"No one political party caused the problem," Cuomo said. "Both share the blame in my opinion."
Paladino – a firebrand who shocked the GOP a week ago by winning the primary – has sought to ride a wave of voter anger at Albany's high taxes, high spending and string of corruption cases in state government, all of which is controlled by Democrats.
The Quinnipiac poll showed Cuomo, the one-term attorney general, with a 49 percent to 43 percent lead among likely New York voters. Seven percent were undecided.
In previous polls of registered voters, Cuomo has held a better than 2-to-1 edge.
"The question was whether Carl Paladino would get a bounce from his big Republican primary victory. The answer is yes," said Quinnipiac polling Director Maurice Carroll.
Cuomo dismissed the latest poll and said Paladino's surge "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," Cuomo said. "But the campaign has just started."
Talking to reporters in Albany later, Cuomo said he takes all polls "with a grain of salt," and this is one of the most important New York elections in his lifetime. "We're done with the dysfunction that has metastasized into a corruption. The question is how do you change Albany, and who has the ability and a strategy to actually change Albany," he said.
The poll found that men were about evenly split between Cuomo and Paladino, a Buffalo developer. Cuomo had 54 percent of the support of women to Paladino's 34 percent.
The survey's gender breakdown showed a higher level of participation by men than has historically occurred in New York's gubernatorial elections, however. Fifty-five percent of the Quinnipiac poll respondents were men, but recent governor's race exit polls conducted in the state by The Associated Press have found the actual voting split about evenly between men and women.
Michael Caputo, Paladino's campaign manager, responded to the Bloomberg endorsement by criticizing the mayor and Cuomo as like-minded politicians at odds with Paladino's views.
Caputo said Bloomberg "subverted the will of the people on term limits" when he persuaded the City Council in 2008 to change the law so he could run for a third, four-year term. Paladino backs eight-year term limits.
Without directly mentioning Paladino, both Bloomberg and Cuomo went to great lengths to cast the race as being about more than emotional outbursts.
"New Yorkers are angry with Albany, and I think for good reason," Bloomberg said, "but anger is not a governing strategy."
Cuomo, for his part, said New Yorkers can either "have an anger party, celebrate our anger," or channel those emotions into a plan to bring order to Albany's chaos.
He did not lay out what his plan includes.
Cuomo acknowledged he made a mistake Wednesday when he said he had voted for Bloomberg, who ran as a Republican for his first races in 2001 and 2005, and an independent last year.
Cuomo said he had, but a spokesman later said the candidate "misspoke." Josh Vlasto said Cuomo supported Democrat Fernando Ferrer in 2005, the only time of those three city elections that Cuomo was registered in New York City.
Meanwhile Wednesday, Rick Lazio would not say if he will drop his third-party run against Cuomo and Paladino, who defeated the former congressman in the GOP primary.
Lazio spoke to a gathering of newspaper editors at the New York Associated Press annual meeting near Albany. He said he would decide in coming days whether to stay in the race and believes a Conservative candidate can win in New York.
Quinnipiac found that the largest share of those polled – 41 percent – said the most important quality in a candidate is the ability to bring change. Lazio was not included in the poll.
Cuomo has more than $20 million in his campaign account as of the latest filings last summer, although Paladino – a millionaire – is now starting to raise cash to add to the more than $10 million of his own money he has pledged to spend.
The poll questioned 751 likely voters from last Thursday 16 to Monday. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
Associated Press Writer Sara Kugler Frazier contributed to this report from New York.