The DN isn’t waiting until after the GOP primary to choose a favorite in the race for governor, dismissing both Carl Paladino and Rick Lazio out of hand and backing the Democratic frontrunner, AG Andrew Cuomo in an editorial that appears in today’s paper – with more than two months to go until the November general election.

This isn’t terribly surprising, given the wide double-digit lead Cuomo has over both his would-be Republican challengers. But it is awfully early. An excerpt:

There is no point in taking further stock of the candidates vying for the Republican nomination in next month’s primary. Rick Lazio and Carl Paladino have been that awful.

This is a pivotal year for a state groaning under economic duress and crying out for leadership that will overhaul a government that’s a dead weight on 18 million people – and corrupt to boot.

But hopes have been dashed that New Yorkers would have a choice between a Democrat and a Republican with robust competing visions and credible potential for delivering on them.

Repeat: Rick Lazio and Carl Paladino have been that awful.

The paper slams the former Long Island congressman for being “shameless and shameful in exploiting passions” over the proposed Islamic center/mosque near Ground Zero and for using 9/11 images in TV ads (actually, the state Conservative Party launched the first one; Lazio’s first attempt was merely a web ad, and his first TV buy is just $200,000).

As for Paladino, well, the DN thinks Lazio would have dispatched him by now had he been made of sterner stuff. The paper also chides the Buffalo businessman for being less than detailed oriented when making grand policy pronouncements and says he’s “given to insensitivities that would divide New Yorkers.”

Enough said. New York’s governor must be cut from finer cloth,” the DN concludes.

Cuomo, thus, stands alone as worthy of The News’ endorsement. In the coming weeks, there will be more to say about his plans, his strengths and weakness and the expectations that he must fulfill. He and New York would have benefited from a bracing contest. But that wasn’t to be.