Former Gov. David A. Paterson refused to criticize his old boss, Eliot Spitzer, while campaigning Monday morning for Spitzer's rival for city comptroller, Scott Stringer.

Paterson, who greeted commuters with Stringer outside a Harlem subway station as polls show black voters favoring Spitzer more than 3 to 1, parried question after question about Spitzer.

Commuters were receptive, but few recognized Stringer, Manhattan's borough president, whom Paterson endorsed months before Spitzer jumped in. Paterson also recorded a robocall for Stringer, which was made public Sunday.

Yet Paterson wouldn't say why Stringer is a better candidate than Spitzer. He wouldn't say whether he agreed with Stringer's description of Spitzer's governorship as a "colossal failure." And he affirmed his assertion last month that "Eliot Spitzer could step into that job tomorrow and do a fantastic job": "Yeah, he could," Paterson said Monday.

So why Scott Stringer over Eliot Spitzer?

"Scott Stringer is a good choice on his own. There doesn't have to be a comparison," he said. Pressed, he quipped, "Because I endorsed him." Asked yet again, he said, "I'm not going to answer the question why they should choose Scott over Eliot."

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Stringer has slammed Spitzer over his resignation as governor in 2008 after getting caught patronizing prostitutes. Paterson, then Spitzer's lieutenant governor, served out Spitzer's term.

"Eliot considers David a good friend, but from the beginning we've made it clear that the only endorsement Eliot is seeking is that of New Yorkers on Sept. 10" -- primary day, Spitzer spokesman Hari Sevugan said.

A Quinnipiac poll last week found Spitzer leading overall by 19 points.

In Harlem Monday, Paterson and Stringer greeted commuters for about an hour.


"I'm Paterson approved!" a beaming Stringer said.

Two people confused Stringer's rival with Anthony Weiner, the other sex-scandalized politician seeking a comeback.

"That's the problem in this two-ring circus: I'm not running against Weiner. I'm running against the other one -- Spitzer," Stringer told actor-model Deric Mickens, 28, who had confused the two.

Anarosa Peguero-Miles, 33, of Washington Heights, said she's for Stringer but made the same mistake Mickens did, invoking Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, who publicly forgave him for a sexting scandal. "I feel bad for Huma," she said.

A man wished Paterson luck. The former governor gestured at Stringer: "I don't need luck. He does."