Pollster Peter Feld dissects the numbers from Quinnipiac, showing the popular Democratic attorney general Andrew Cuomo only six points ahead of his little-known Republican rival, Carl Paladino.
Feld says Cuomo will engage, and voters will eventually get past their love affair with the concept of an angry outsider. In the end, Feld ventures Cuomo holds on 54-46 percent:
Outside political circles and the Republican base, the electorate hasn't grasped Paladino yet. Not everyone sees the front page of the Daily News and knows he's a nut.
To some extent this represents the partisan structure of New York State right now, including the enthusiasm gap. When you consider the past four years in Albany, it's no shock that Democratic voters (and others) are not enthusiastic about the Democrats - that on top of the national environment. And Cuomo is reaping somewhat the effects of the lengthy non-campaign; he isn't sufficiently differentiated from the current regime.
But GOP voters have grasped Paladino (and obviously, they respond to his message of anger, all the better for being so unfiltered). His pugnacious nature is why he has consolidated his base so quickly. Suppose polls right after the primary showed Cuomo 49%, Paladino 36% - I would still expect a result around 54%-46%, it would just be slower to settle. Paladino has made himself distinctive and hasn't had to spend money to get known.
Paladino's 46% is sure to include a fair number of people who don't really know him, but support him as a generic Republican. I think he has more downside from people getting to know his off-the-wall style (e.g., after those debates he is demanding - unless he pulls a Reagan curveball and shows up totally rational and competent-seeming... then it would be a different race) than upside.
I expect Cuomo to engage this race better, and he can push his number above 50. I will go with 54%-46% or maybe a point or two closer.