[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/21/art.paterson.0921.gi.jpg caption="Polls show that Paterson is low in the polls - and dropping fast."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - An Obama administration source denies reports that the White House has been looking for a 'soft landing' for embattled New York Gov. David Paterson - but says Paterson hasn't flatly refused to remove himself from the race, though he is being coy about his plans.
Informed sources tell CNN that White House political director Patrick Gaspard met early last week with the Democratic governor to let him know about the administration's concerns he could not win the governor's race next year - a problem that could affect races down-ticket, not the least of which Senate seat now held by Kirsten Gillibrand. The White House decision to approach Paterson, says one source, "was driven by the poll numbers. There doesn't seem to be any way he can recover."
CNN has also learned that New York Sen. Chuck Schumer met with the president last month, and that the fate of the governor's race may have been one topic of conversation.
Polls show that Paterson's approval numbers are low - and dropping fast. In recent polls, just one in five voters approved of the job he'd been doing as governor. The same surveys indicated he'd lose in a matchup against former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo - who has assiduously avoided weighing in on the Paterson controversy - is clearly waiting in the wings, his approval ratings skyrocketing as he aggressively takes on Wall Street. "Every banker Cuomo indicts, the more popular he gets," says one Democratic strategist.
Even so, New York Rep. Jose Serrano told CNN, "if the White House has issues with a Democratic governor, there are ways to do that. Going public and embarrassing our governor doesn't make any sense." Particularly, Serrano adds, since the two met had to meet in New York today. It must be, he added, "the most uncomfortable situation either has faced in a long time."