Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate for governor in New York, has a favorite saying.
"New Yorkers are as mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore," the Tea Party-backed Paladino said two weeks ago when he won a surprise victory over an establishment Republican, Rick Lazio.
But Paladino's angry rhetoric bubbled over in real life Wednesday when he got into a heated confrontation with New York Post reporter Fred Dicker in upstate New York and threatened him. Campaign aides had to hold the two men apart.
New York's gubernatorial race was already ugly before the confrontation. Paladino, a businessman from Buffalo, had acknowledged having an affair and fathering a daughter with his mistress. The New York tabloids went wild.
Paladino’s response was to try to shift attention to his opponent, Democrat Andrew Cuomo. In interviews, Paladino kept insinuating that Cuomo, the New York attorney general, also had affairs before his divorce in 2003.
On Wednesday, Dicker challenged the GOP candidate, and the exchange was captured on tape by WCNY.
"Do you have any evidence of that and if you did isn't that going into the gutter?" Dicker asked.
Paladino would not produce evidence, but he did have a bone to pick with the reporter. He accused the Post of sending photographers onto his property to take pictures of his 10-year-old daughter. This is when fingers got pointed, and the swearing began.
Dicker: What's the evidence?
Paladino: You are his bird dog. You send another goon to my daughter's house and I'll take you out.
Dicker: Take me out? How are you going to do that?
Dicker: What are you threatening me?
Paladino was pulled by his aides into a bathroom. They told Dicker the room was only for men.
Now, this whole thing could be chalked up to stress and friction on a campaign. It happens. But the notable thing about Paladino is that delivering such rage is one of his main campaign promises.
On the trail, the Republican calls himself a "wartime leader" like Gen. Patton. He refers to his campaign as a "crusade." Paladino threatens to clean up the New York state capitol with a "baseball bat." He vows confrontation and promises it is going to get ugly.
In an interview with Fox 5 TV earlier this week, Paladino said that he liked his nasty reputation.
"I'm not politically correct. I'm an outsider," he said. "I plan on really restructuring government. I plan on taking out these bad guys and Andrew Cuomo is at the top of the list."
This leaves Cuomo in a strange situation. The son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, he was legendary in New York political circles for being aggressive and even nasty during his father's campaigns. But Paladino has staked out that territory already. Cuomo has been as quiet and calm as he has ever been. He has avoided committing to debates and only this week started even mentioning his opponent, using one word in particular: extremist.
"I believe Mr. Paladino's position of saying the best form of government is a benevolent dictator, I believe that's an extremist position. It is an extreme position and it is held by an extremist group," Cuomo said.
Other that that, Cuomo stays on the issues. He does not mention Paladino's personal life. Nor does he mention another scandal: racist and pornographic e-mails that Paladino forwarded to his friends.
It's hard to tell how Paladino's rage is playing with voters. Polls have shown the race to be either neck-and-neck or have Cuomo leading by a wide margin. But in upstate New York, Paladino's angry shtick doesn't seem to be hurting.
At Mimi's Drive Inn in Fulton, N.Y., Don and Mary Wolcott, a retired couple, sided with Paladino.
"He's kinda rough around the edges, isn't he?" Don Wolcott said. "I give the guy a lot of credit though for standing up for himself."
"I like his spunk," Mary Wolcott said. "We need people in Albany and Washington with some backbone. This country has no backbone anymore."
Another diner said that avoiding confrontation is the sign of a polished politician, and nobody wants that these days.
If the Paladino campaign was embarrassed by Wednesday's fight and the talk of violence, it didn't show it. The campaign put up a special website Thursday asking for contributions to a "money bomb."