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Obama has taken big risks in intervening in NYS gubernatorial politics

Sen. Gillibrand in a bind -- she owes much to a governor whose run will likely send her down to defeat

Release Date: September 21, 2009

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Political scientist James E. Campbell calls efforts by the Obama administration to pressure Gov. Paterson to not run for the governor's office "highly unusual and very risky."

James E. Campbell

Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science

University at Buffalo

jcampbel@buffalo.edu

716-645-8452

The Obama administration's public attempt to pressure Gov. David Paterson into declaring that he will not seek election next year so that State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo will more easily secure the Democratic gubernatorial nomination is "highly unusual and very risky," according to University at Buffalo political scientist James E. Campbell.

"Presidents normally stay out of internal party nomination contests. For President Obama to involve himself and allow it to be leaked to the press risks offending a segment of his own party. Moreover, if his effort is successful, he may appear to be a meddling king-maker, trying to keep New York's Democrats from deciding who will head their party's ticket," Campbell said.

"If Gov. Paterson refuses the president's call to declare himself a 'lame duck,' President Obama could appear to be unable to control his own party. If Gov. Paterson heeds the president's call, however, he could effectively be writing himself out of the governing process in Albany.

"I have no doubt that the Obama administration understands the downsides to its intervention, but sees Paterson as such a heavy liability for Democrats in 2010 that the fallout is worth it just to get him out of the way.

"One wonders what Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is thinking and what she will do. Gov. Paterson plucked her from relative obscurity to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by former Sen. Hillary Clinton, so she owes him a considerable debt of loyalty. But, if Paterson runs, her chances of being elected to the Senate seat will be significantly diminished."

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