Maloney, Paterson, Cuomo and the Gumption Game

08/07/2009 04:44 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Someone has sucked the gumption out of New York politics.

First Caroline Kennedy withdrew from consideration for the open Senate seat. Then Anthony Weiner bowed out of the mayoral race. And now Steve Israel, Carolyn McCarthy and Carolyn Maloney have all backed down from challenging Kirsten Gillibrand.

This certainly takes the fun out of things. And it leaves only one multimillion dollar question: David Paterson or Andrew Cuomo? Who blinks first?

Andrew Cuomo feels he's earned his shot at Albany's corner office. He took his lumps for foolishly challenging Carl McCall in 2002, having to suffer the embarrassment of withdrawing just a week before the primary to avoid... well, an even bigger embarrassment. Now he's mellowed out, paid his dues as attorney general and (most importantly) is the more popular one. He'll spend the next few months biting his lip and taking plaudits from the press on how magnanimous he is compared to the upstart kid who ran in '02. Because Cuomo's got the upper hand, right?

It depends on how you see David Paterson.

One view of Paterson is the governor who does not want to be a lame duck -- especially since the release of every new poll shows what little public support he has. This is the guy who is trying to make the most out of his unexpected three years in the chair FDR once occupied.

The other Paterson wants to run in 2010, to win a term in his own right. This is the Paterson who meets with Cuomo on the QT to placate him, then turns around two weeks later and tells the New York Observer, "I am the only one who is governing the people of this state. Others, who comment, half-govern." In the same interview, he likened Cuomo and other would-be opponents to "sharks that have been swirling around me."

In the gumption game, Paterson looks like a star player. New York just might get an interesting race after all....