Administration Denies Claim That Obama Urged Paterson to Withdraw

While the administration denies that President Obama urged New York Gov. David Paterson to drop out, a senior official confirmed that White House officials are, at the least, concerned about Paterson’s ability to survive in office — suggesting high-level conversations with Paterson have taken place.

(FOXNEWS)   The Obama administration on Sunday flatly denied that the president intervened in New York state politics and urged Gov. David Paterson to withdraw from the 2010 governor’s race.

“President Obama is not involved in any way,” a senior administration official told FOX News.

The pushback came after The New York Times reported that Obama asked Paterson, a Democrat, to drop out over concern that he is damaged goods, politically, and could drag down other Democrats in the state. The Times quoted administration officials as saying the president’s request was conveyed to Paterson by Queens Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks.

But while the administration denied any presidential interference Sunday, the senior official confirmed that White House officials are, at the least, concerned about Paterson’s ability to survive in office — suggesting high-level conversations with Paterson have taken place.

“There are officials in the White House that share the concerns that are widely held in New York about the very challenging political environment confronting Governor Paterson,” the official said, adding that those concerns were expressed through the appropriate channels.

“Nobody asked him to get out of the race — it is Governor Paterson’s decision to make. We’re confident he’ll make the decision based on the best interests of the state,” the official said.

According to two senior New York Democratic advisers who spoke to The Associated Press, national Democratic Party leaders were the ones who urged Paterson to contemplate dropping out.

The message about the race was delivered from top national Democrats at a dinner Friday night with Paterson, but it was unclear whether it was at the direction of Obama, one of the advisers said. The Democratic leaders spoke of a concern referred to as the “David Paterson problem,” the adviser said.

The sources said it was unclear what Paterson would do in response.

But if the White House played any role in the guiding of New York state politics, it wouldn’t be the first time. The White House made a hard push earlier in the year to clear the field for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed by Paterson to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Senate.

Obama personally intervened in May to dissuade Democratic Rep. Steve Israel from challenging Gillibrand in a primary race. Vice President Joe Biden reportedly urged Rep. Carolyn Maloney not to challenge the incumbent either. Weeks later, Maloney dropped her bid, though it was unclear whether White House pressure was a contributing factor.

Patrick Gaspard, Obama’s political director, was scheduled to meet with Paterson on Monday, one of the Democratic sources said.

Obama is scheduled to be in upstate New York that day, when he is expected to deliver a vision of economic revival to students at the Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.

As lieutenant governor, Paterson moved to the governor’s office in March 2008 with Eliot Spitzer’s resignation amid a prostitution scandal. But in the months since, his popularity has plummeted, and the state’s economic situation deteriorated, with job losses mounting and the unemployment rate rising to the highest in 26 years.

Paterson has announced he will seek a full term in the 2010 election.

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