The Tea Party will be able to claim one of its biggest breakthroughs if millionaire real-estate developer Carl Paladino — its favored candidate in New York's GOP gubernatorial primary this Tuesday — beats Republican one-time front-runner Rick Lazio. The winner will face Democratic Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Paladino has caught Lazio in at least one poll, and seems to have the momentum. But can a controversial Tea Partier really beat a party-backed stalwart in the land of the Rockefeller Republican? (Watch a local report about the race)

This is a pure GOP vs. Tea Party test: It's hard to imagine how Lazio and Paladino could "be any more different and still be in the same party," says Dan Roem in National Journal. Lazio's backed by "the Big 3 of New York Republican politics": Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, and Rep. Peter King; Paladino is a Tea Party favorite big in western New York. All they share is an "absolute disdain" for Cuomo and the "Ground Zero mosque."
"NY Gov. preview: Lazio, Paladino too close to call"

Expect another Tea Party upset: In a would-be strategic move, Lazio made an especially big deal of the supposedly "explosive" mosque issue, says David Weigel in Slate, and he still blew a 41-point lead over Paladino. Why? For starters, 66 percent of New York Republicans have a favorable view of the "Tea Party movement," while only 17 percent have an unfavorable view — "far better than the numbers for any [GOP] candidates."
"Rick Lazio's fall"

Does this race even matter? Either candidate will lose to Cuomo, says poll data-cruncher Nate Silver in The New York Times, with Lazio's 100-to-1 shot only slightly better than Paladino's 300-to-1 odds. But "establishment Republicans" still have "some decent reasons to be concerned" with a Paladino win: If even the once-proud New York GOP can't run a relative moderate like Lazio, where's the Republican Party's future in the Northeast?
"Paladino and New York's Republicans"

The game isn't over yet: No matter who triumphs in Tuesday's primary, Paladino and Lazio will face each other and Cuomo in November, says Gannett's Nick Reisman at WGRZ TV. If Paladino wins, Lazio will still be on the Conservative ticket; meanwhile, if Lazio wins, Paladino will run on his own Taxpayers Party ticket — which means the only real beneficiary of the Republican primary will be... Andrew Cuomo.
"Carl Paladino to stay in... race on Taxpayers Party line"