- Associated Press - Monday, February 10, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York’s Senate Republican leader said Monday that he believes Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino will run for governor and that incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo is vulnerable.

“I think Rob Astorino will be an excellent candidate,” Sen. Dean Skelos said. The Long Island senator also said he isn’t sure businessman and celebrity Donald Trump is serious about running as Trump has suggested.

Asked whether he thinks incumbent Democrat Cuomo is vulnerable, Skelos said he is. “You know everybody’s vulnerable in politics,” he said.

The Astorino for Governor campaign committee was registered with the state Board of Elections last week and Astorino has said he’ll decide within the next several weeks.

Cuomo, who was elected in 2010, has strong poll numbers and a $33 million campaign war chest. On the strength of a massive advantage in liberal New York City, Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1 statewide.

The state Democratic Committee did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.

Trump, who Forbes estimates is worth $3.5 billion, has vowed that he’ll only run if the state’s Republican Party rallies behind him and he faces no challengers for the nomination.

Skelos said that he isn’t sure that Trump would be able to devote the time between his television shows and other interests to run for governor. “It’s a huge task to run statewide for governor,” Skelos said.

Meanwhile, state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long said Monday he doesn’t believe Trump will enter the race, while Astorino is moving himself into position to be the best and strongest candidate against Cuomo.

“If (Astorino) becomes an announced candidate, I said I’m sure my party leaders and myself would be ready to go to get onboard and have a unified ticket to run against Andrew Cuomo,” Long said, adding that he talked to Astorino over the weekend.

Concerning the incumbent Democrat’s vulnerability, Long recalled when Cuomo’s father, Gov. Mario Cuomo, was considered unbeatable in the early 1990s, and Republican state Sen. George Pataki beat him.

“I know what Cuomo’s numbers are, how much money he has in the bank. I also know New York state is headed in the wrong direction,” he said.

After analyzing voter turnout models, Astorino’s campaign believes the New York City suburbs would be the battleground, where he has shown the ability to attract support from registered Democrats and independents, said spokeswoman Jessica Proud.

She said that will be critical in talking to potential donors and supporters, which she said Astorino is already doing.

“We feel, aside from number of issues the governor has failed on, if you break down the state there’s definitely a way to win,” Proud said.

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