Paterson's Doldrums Conundrum

09/24/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

For a moment there, Governor David Paterson parted the curtain and offered his theory on why state Democrats want him out: the color of his skin.

So that's one person's opinion. Fact is, nobody has a good explanation for Paterson's unpopularity. Ask around and people will struggle to tell you why he's barely treading lame-duck waters. Read Ben McGrath's recent New Yorker profile and you'll see that even Mayor Bloomberg is mystified by it.

Maybe it's that he came to power by an embarrassing sex scandal? Maybe it's because he aired his own illicit activities just as New Yorkers were learning who he is? (As state Senator Ben Parker once put it, a "coke snorting, staff-banging governor.") You could blame the fact that he stuck his neck out for Bloomberg's congestion pricing, pissing off suburban and outer borough drivers. Or you could blame the stigma his blindness carries.

But those early faults didn't take a toll. It's hard to recall Paterson ever being popular, but when he took office, 75 percent of New Yorkers told a Quinnipiac University poll they believed he would govern effectively. Sixty-seven percent thought he would restore trust in state government. His approval-disapproval rating was 46 to 3. (51 percent had no opinion.) A Sienna poll done during his early hiccups showed him with 58 percent approval. And his numbers stayed there for a good while. In late October 2008 (ten months ago!), a Sienna poll had his approval-disapproval at 62-19. By comparison, Andrew Cuomo was at 59-25.

What happened? Twin management crises. The state Senate played games with the budget, and Caroline Kennedy tried to force his hand on Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. Paterson failed both tests. People lost confidence in him. The press turned on him, and he hasn't caught a break since.

That's just one person's opinion. What's yours?