Just a few months ago Carl Paladino wasn't even allowed to give a speech at the New York State Republican Convention. He didn't get enough support there to be on the primary ballot, so his volunteers worked the entire state gathering signatures on petitions in order to get his named added to the ballot, and from there Paladino's momentum snowballed.
Money is one factor in Paladino's primary success. He is a millionaire while his primary opponent Rick Lazio had trouble raising funds. But, as past candidates such as billionaire Tom Golisano knows, money can't buy the governorship so there were clearly other factors at work in Paladino's win. "It's the message," says Bob Davis, a political analyst for Eyewitness News, "The message of the dysfunctionality in Albany, the late budgets, the high taxes, the corruption, and that's Carl's message."
"Paladino resonated with a lot of people not just your nutty Tea Partiers," says Michael Haselswerdt, Chair of Political Science at Canisius College.
Lazio is also likely second-guessing his decision not to debate Paladino. That decision was likely made based on early polls showing Lazio with a double-digit lead over Paladino. "At this point though it's quite clear that that was a mistake," says James Campbell, Professor of Political Science at the University at Buffalo.
Some political analysts question the accuracy of the early polls and wonder if pollsters were reaching Paladino's Tea Party base. "Early polls particularly in primaries are not very reliable and so anybody who makes judgments based on these polls is running a big risk," says Campbell.
Other analysts have a different take. "I think the polls were good," says Davis, "I don't think people were really paying attention in August when Lazio had the double-digit lead that he had and then as you got to Labor Day it tightened up a little bit, and then a week out it was down to about 10-12 points and then a week later it was down to one."
The strong primary day turnout among Republicans upstate made a difference in the outcome. "In Western New York the Republican turnout was over 30% which I believe is an all time high and downstate the turnout was in the 13-15% range," says Davis.
Now the challenge for Paladino will be to keep the momentum going. He will have to win the support of some Democrats if he is going to upset Andrew Cuomo in November since New York has 2-3 million more registered Democrats than Republicans.