Paladino within 6 of Cuomo in NY gubernatorial race

Could the Tea Party wave crash as far into Democratic strongholds as the governor’s mansion in New York?  Until now, businessman Carl Paladino has been more of a human-interest story than a threat to Andrew Cuomo in his quest for his father’s old position as Governor.  The New York Daily News reports that a new Quinnipiac poll shows that Paladino has transformed from a sideshow to a contender (via Jammie Wearing Fool):

Flame-throwing Republican Carl Paladino is within striking distance of overtaking longtime gubernatorial frontrunner Andrew Cuomo, a shocking new poll finds.

Among likely voters, the Democrat Cuomo has a paltry 49% to 43% lead over Paladino, the blowhard Buffalo businessman who won a shocking and decisive victory last week in the GOP primary, the Quinnipiac University poll finds.

Quinnipiac’s findings are in stark contrast to a Rasmussen Reports poll released Monday that showed Cuomo with a more robust 54% to 38% lead.

Cuomo “might be a victim of his own excess,” Quinnipiac pollster Maurice Carroll said. “Politicians and polls have depicted him so relentlessly as a sure thing that he might be a victim of the ‘throw the bums out’ attitude that hits incumbents in this angry year.”

Paladino famously says that the way to clean up Albany is with a baseball bat and not a broom.  He may be hitting a home run with New York voters, whom most analysts had more or less written out of the big conservative wave that appears to be breaking across the US.  Cuomo was too impressive a candidate, and Republicans too disorganized and with unknowns on the ballot, to make a dent in the Empire State this year.  At least with Quinnipiac, those voters may have other ideas after all.

It’s still an uphill climb.  Paladino will need a much bigger split among independents than his current 49/43 lead in order to overcome the Democratic registration advantage.  He could help matters by getting the 13% of Republicans who are moving to Cuomo; Paladino gets 8% of Democrats, but he’s not likely to get much more than that.  Republican Rick Lazio is still on the ballot in the Conservative Party slot as well, which complicates matters — but since neither Quinnipiac nor Rasmussen polled with Lazio as an option, it’s hard to say how much.  The real question for Democrats will be turnout, and whether the likely-voter models used by the two pollsters will accurately predict the enthusiasm building on the Right.

This could have an effect on down-ticket races as well.  Until now, New York Republicans and conservatives may have been forgiven for having somewhat less enthusiasm in this election as is seen in other states with less daunting odds.  If Republicans get excited about Paladino, they may not quite carry him to victory, but the force of that enthusiasm will reverberate in close Congressional races throughout the state.