ALBANY -- Republican Rob Astorino launched his campaign against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Thursday in one of the Democrat's strongholds in the Bronx, then repeated the announcement in Buffalo.
"I'm going to go where Republicans don't typically go," Astorino said outside the Bronx County Courthouse. "I'm going to ask every New Yorker the same question: Are we winning or are we losing as a state?"
The two-term Westchester County executive bases that question on what he says is a still faltering economy and a state that taxes too much and drives young, educated New Yorkers out of state for careers.
Astorino faces an uphill fight against Cuomo. The Democrat already has $33 million in campaign fund in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 2 to 1.
But Astorino may have gotten an opening Thursday in a poll that showed a dent in the near record-high polls Cuomo has enjoyed for most of his term.
Cuomo's job approval rating dropped 10 percentage points to 42 percent of registered voters since November, according to the NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll. That's the lowest rating in the Marist poll since Cuomo took office in 2011.
The drop was steepest among African-Americans and Latinos. Some of that drop is attributed to continued tough economic times, said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist poll.
Cuomo downplayed and then questioned the poll. "For all the polls, the adage is, they go up and they go down," Cuomo told public radio's Capitol Pressroom. "What happened since November? I have no idea."
Astorino also received an important endorsement yesterday over TV celebrity and developer Donald Trump and Buffalo developer Carl Paladino, who said they are considering runs against Cuomo on the Republican and Conservative lines.
"I am personally endorsing him," state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long said of Astorino. "The party hasn't done that yet, but my job now is to get the party to rally around Rob Astorino and I think that's what we're going to do," Long told Newsday after standing with Astorino at his kickoff in the Bronx.
The Conservative Party line has traditionally been essential for Republicans seeking statewide office in the state dominated by Democratic voters.
The Marist poll showed Cuomo's popularity remains high and would easily beat Astorino or other potential Republicans candidates if the election were held now. But the job approval plummet was rare for Cuomo.
"This is getting to be a very hard time for incumbents to convince people they are getting the job done," Miringoff said in an interview.
Cuomo took his biggest hits in the suburbs and upstate, areas that Astorino needs to win to take the governor's mansion. The poll showed Cuomo's job approval dropped in the New York City suburbs to 45 percent, from 57 percent. His approval dropped to 35 percent upstate, from 47 percent in November.
The poll questioned 658 registered voters Feb. 27 through March 3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.