Reporting from New York — The race to be the next governor of New York became a two-man heat Monday.
In one of those the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend moments, Rick Lazio, a former congressman from Long Island, took himself out of the running in order to give "tea party" favorite Carl Paladino a better shot at beating their Democratic rival, state Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo.
This month, Lazio lost badly to Paladino for the Republican nomination, yet kept his name on the ballot for the November election as the Conservative Party candidate. At a news conference Monday, he announced his decision to remove it but made clear it wasn't out of any love of Paladino, a Buffalo businessman with an edgy, combative style and $10 million he has vowed to spend to get elected.
"I remain unconvinced that Carl Paladino can bring the improvement that New Yorkers need, deserve and want," Lazio said. He said he simply didn't want to be a GOP spoiler.
Paladino, who has positioned himself as an insurgent who wants to clean up state government, is expected this week to get his name put on the Conservative Party line. In modern times, no Republican has won a race for New York governor — or any statewide office for that matter — without that endorsement.
"Game on," said GOP political advisor Dave Catalfamo. "Now Carl has one of the important bellwethers of what Republicans look for in a race. Now let's see if he can keep up the momentum to beat Andrew."
Cuomo has remained ahead in public opinion polls, but Paladino could pick up enough support from Conservative Party voters with Lazio out of the way to tighten up the race.