WASHINGTON (CNN) - White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs won't confirm or deny a report that President Obama urged embattled New York Gov. David Paterson not to seek a full term.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One Monday, Gibbs was asked about a New York Times report which said that Obama "sent a request" to Paterson urging him to step aside from the governor's race. Gibbs said Paterson is in a "tough situation" and said ultimately the decision on whether or not he is going to make a bid to keep his job next year is one "that he's going to make."
"Well, look, I think everybody understands the tough jobs that every elected official has right now in addressing many of the problems that we have, and I think people are aware of the tough situation that the governor of New York is in," Gibbs said. "And I wouldn't add a lot to what you've read, except this is a decision that he's going to make."
Gibbs said it isn't new for presidents to get involved in elections around the country, and called it one of the "hazards of the job."
On Sunday, senior White House officials denied the report that Obama had asked Paterson to withdraw. The White House is aware of the governor's political troubles, concern has been expressed through indirect channels - but the decision, they said, lies in Paterson's hands.
While White House officials stressed that Obama has not spoken with the governor directly about the race at all, they acknowledged that aides have conveyed to Paterson's camp that they are aware of his deep political troubles in the Empire State.
"It's not secret that Democrats in New York are very concerned about the situation," said one White House official. "We share those concerns and those concerns have been conveyed in an appropriate way."
But the official added "no one has ordered him out of the race, nor does anyone have the authority to. He has to look at his situation and make the decision that he thinks is right for himself, the party, and the state."
Despite the controversy, Obama gave Paterson a warm welcome when the two met at an event in Troy, New York.
"A wonderful man, the governor of the great state of New York, David Paterson, is in the house," Obama said.
Recent polls show Paterson's approval rating hovering between the 20s and 30s, but the governor said on Sunday that he is still planning on running for a full term in 2010.
–CNN Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry contributed to this report.