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NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Governor David Paterson would lose the next election for governor to state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a potential Democratic rival, by a margin of 53 percent to 27 percent, a new poll said on Tuesday.
Only last month, Paterson would have edged past Cuomo by 35 percent to 33 percent, according to the Loudonville, New York-based Siena Research Institute.
Financial analysts scrutinize polls to assess whether governors have enough clout to persuade legislatures to approve their budgets, and New York's $14 billion deficit is one of the biggest among all states.
Paterson blamed his drop in the poll on his handling of a replacement for U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who became Secretary of State.
"I think that there was a point in that process where it started to become a bit of a circus and I probably just should have ended it," he told Albany reporters.
The governor chose upstate Representative Kirsten Gillibrand as the new U.S. senator after Caroline Kennedy withdrew amid a media frenzy.
Paterson also trails former Republican New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani by 51 percent to 36 percent, according to the poll, which had a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.
In January, Paterson led Giuliani by 44 percent to 42 percent. The new February 16 to 18 poll included 622 voters.
"The good news for the Governor is that the election is more than a year and a half away. The bad news is there is a lot of catching up to do and it's hard work trying to restore voters' faith," said Steven Greenberg, a poll spokesman.
Reporting by Tom Ryan in New York and Elizabeth Flood Morrow in Albany;