NY Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino talks at his campaign...

NY Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino talks at his campaign headquarters in Buffalo. (Sept. 30, 2010) Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

In the 2 1/2 weeks since Carl Paladino became the Republican nominee for governor, New Yorkers have learned a bit more each day about the Buffalo real estate man's approach to political rhetoric.

Those who pay attention to the statewide scene have known since the spring what Western New Yorkers already knew - that this guy likes to throw punches.

Suddenly, however, "mad-as-hell" Paladino's ability to take a punch is in serious question.

Allies seem glad to help Paladino effectively confront foe Andrew Cuomo. "Am I concerned? Yeah," said a Republican on Paladino's side who declined to be identified. "He's being vetted - and he wants the press to do the same with Cuomo. But I hope he's not spending a lot of time trying to disseminate dirt on Cuomo. That's not what people are looking for."

"Carl is starting to show a glass jaw," taunted a Cuomo fan, also requesting anonymity.

Some jaded Democratic insiders - not to mention Republicans - have been privately chuckling at the sight of seeing the famously hard-driving Cuomo draw some heat.

Still, Camp Paladino, under sharp scrutiny for the first time, also looks pressured. And the worst of the ads and allegations against him haven't even gone up.

For those who haven't followed the blow-by-blow, consider Paladino's general pattern. Either he or one of his top campaign aides have issued a spatter of messages in recent weeks that included:

Former Republican Gov. George Pataki was a "degenerate idiot" (before Pataki endorsed Paladino). Michael Long, the Conservative Party chairman, was a "crazy old coot" (before his party endorsed Paladino). Ed Cox, the Republican Party's chairman, was one of those who "got beat up a lot on the playground as a kid" (before Paladino won the primary and Cox fell in behind him).

Cuomo, who's divorced, needs to have his personal life investigated. This, by way of responding to stories about the married Paladino's 10-year-old out-of-wedlock daughter whose existence he announced in April. A reporter demanding evidence of Paladino's allegations of Cuomo "paramours" is just a "stalking horse" for Cuomo.

Sheldon Silver, Assembly speaker, is a criminal, an anti-Christ, and incompetent, and corrupt - statements that presumably would be operative until Gov. Paladino's first budget talks. David A. Paterson, the current Democratic governor, who condemns Paladino as unqualified, is a drug addict.

Former elected officials who criticize Paladino are Cuomo "goons." Abortion rights advocates are "another Cuomo surrogate group sent to do the bidding of the Albany ruling class."

Finger-pointing is Paladino's MO. We haven't even gotten to the anatomical stuff (cojones, etc.) but you get the idea. If all, some or none of Paladino's claims are reality-based, you wouldn't know it from hearing him; the charges generally haven't been followed up by evidence or detail.

But now Paladino needs to play defense. Rus Thompson, the Paladino driver and running mate for comptroller, once was ordered jailed in Arizona for drunken driving, it was revealed this week. Campaign chair Nancy Naples resigned as Erie comptroller after a published report she was "steering 80 percent of the county's bond business to one politically wired underwriter." Adviser John Haggerty was indicted June for allegedly stealing more than $1 million related to the Mayor Michael Bloomberg re-election campaign. Campaign manager Michael Caputo has a $53,000 tax lien. The campaign dismissed this all as "unproven allegations" and a "20-year-old DUI" in a statement.

Should public postings of the Ten Commandments be debated in this race as it has in others, we might all want to reread the Ninth. You know - the one about bearing false witness.