NEW YORK (Reuters) - Underdog Republican Carl Paladino, backed by the conservative Tea Party movement, pulled within 6 percentage points of Democrat Andrew Cuomo in the New York governor’s race in a poll released on Wednesday while New York City’s popular independent mayor endorsed Cuomo.
Cuomo, the state’s attorney general, had the support of 49 percent of likely voters, compared to 43 percent for Paladino, a blunt-speaking businessman who shocked establishment candidate Rick Lazio in the September 14 Republican primary, the Quinnipiac University poll found.
A Quinnipiac poll of registered voters released on September 1 — two weeks before the Republican primary — had shown Cuomo, the son of popular former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, with a lead of 60 percent to 23 percent over Paladino.
“The question was whether Carl Paladino would get a bounce from his big Republican primary victory. The answer is yes,” Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement. “He’s within shouting distance and — you can count on it — he will be shouting.”
Cuomo, who been considered a strong favorite ahead of the November 2 election in the heavily Democratic state, picked up the endorsement of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who appeared with Cuomo at City Hall.
“New Yorkers are angry with (the state capital) Albany — and I think for good reason, but anger is not a governing strategy,” said Bloomberg, one of the leading U.S. independent politicians.
The Quinnipiac poll showed Paladino leading among independent voters by 6 percentage points.
Paladino’s campaign seized on the new poll to say voters were “climbing on board with Carl” and said it gave him an immediate, though unspecified, boost in fund-raising.
“No matter how you slice that poll it comes up good for Carl and bad for Cuomo. Andrew Cuomo started this race 37 points ahead. He has dropped 31 points,” Paladino campaign manager Michael Caputo said in a statement.
Cuomo downplayed the poll, saying, “I’m in politics, I’m in government, so nothing surprises me at this point in life.”
The September 16-20 poll of 751 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
Paladino has tapped into support from the Tea Party, the loosely organized conservative movement that advocates smaller government, lower taxes and less regulation of private business and has been harshly critical of Democratic President Barack Obama.
Eighteen percent of those questioned in the poll considered themselves part of the Tea Party movement. Of those, they supported Paladino by 77 percent to 18 percent for Cuomo.
Paladino jolted the governor’s race as he promised to cut taxes and dismantle parts of the state bureaucracy that he called obsolete. Paladino has sharply attacked Cuomo, questioning whether he had the “cojones,” Spanish for balls, to debate him and saying the Democrat was riding his father’s coat-tails.
Tea Party-backed candidates won several high-profile primary races around the country against more moderate establishment Republicans.
Editing by Will Dunham