Spitzer's Chances

In case you're wondering (perhaps prompted by our question of the day) whether former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer could again win a statewide office in New York someday, it appears to be up in the air.

SurveyUSA asked 500 New Yorkers yesterday whether they would vote for Spitzer if he ran for public office again; 15 percent said they'd vote for him no matter what, 39 percent said they'd vote against him no matter what, and 47 percent said it would depend on what office Spitzer ran for and who else is on the ballot.

At the same time, a full 33 percent of respondents said they had absolutely no respect for Spitzer, when asked to rate their respect on a scale of 1 to 10--generally a bad sign for a politician, though 44 percent gave him a 5 or higher.

New Yorkers think Spitzer is better qualified than his replacement, current Gov. David Paterson, whose approval ratings have tanked since he stepped in: 41 percent told SurveyUSA that Spitzer is more qualified to be governor, while 24 percent said Paterson is more qualified and 35 percent weren't sure. Spitzer loses 61-27 to former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, whose political future is still uncertain, on the same question.

If the 2010 governor's race draws either Giuliani or state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo--who carries a 70 percent approval rating and, jilted by Paterson's selection of Gillibrand over him, may be itching for a statewide victory--Spitzer probably wouldn't be able to pull it off.

The New York Post suggested yesterday that Spitzer may be considering a run at some office, though some close to him say it's not true, and Spitzer himself won't comment.

The leading possibilities are State comptroller and U.S. Senate, which would mean a primary challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), whom Paterson appointed when Hillary Clinton became secretary of State, the Post suggested.

In which race would Spitzer fare better? Gillibrand is considered vulnerable by some: she's never won a statewide race in New York, and not many people have an opinion of her. An August 24 Siena poll showed that 52 percent don't have an opinion, 41 percent don't know if they'd vote for her or someone else, and George Pataki could threaten her as a Republican.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is arguably worse off. As comptroller, it's no surprise fewer people have heard of him, and a full 74 percent have no opinion of him according to the same Siena poll. 28 percent (vs. 17 percent) would vote for someone else in 2010, with 56 percent having no opinion on the election.

The comptroller race is far less likely to draw interest from the political stars of New York, like Cuomo and Giuliani--and those are the names that could automatically take Spitzer out. As former attorney general and governor, Spitzer would have an advantage in name ID over a lesser-known figure like DiNapoli or even Gillibrand...the problem is that lots of people don't like him. Against the rock stars of New York politics, that advantage doesn't exist; but don't expect them to run for comptroller in 2010.

At this point, it's all conjecture, and the idea of a Spitzer comeback in 2010 seems dubious. It's pretty soon after his massive fall from grace, and why would he put is family through a campaign? But stranger things have happened. And, at this point, it looks like comptroller could be a viable option for him.