But the announcement that the governor for 300-plus more days won't seek election may not be enough to quiet growing questions and a criminal investigation into Paterson's handling of an abuse complaint against a top aide.
Andrew Cuomo, the Democrat who will likely run for the office Paterson will leave, is heading a probe into whether the Paterson administration, and the governor himself, improperly intervened in a domestic violence case involving one of Paterson's most trusted aides, David Johnson.
At his announcement Friday, Paterson was characteristically defiant when addressing his role in how the domestic violence case was handled by the administration.
Raising his right hand beside his wife, Michelle, he told a crowded press room: "I give you this personal oath. I have never abused my office. Not now, not ever. I believe that when the facts are reviewed, the truth will prevail."
While politicians from both parties wouldn't say the governor should resign because of the scandal, the city's leading tabloids called for his ouster in front-page editorials Friday.
"Time to go, Dave," the New York Post said in its headline. The New York Daily News said that Paterson had "demeaned his high office" and was not trustworthy.
Paterson insisted that he would not resign and pledged to serve out his term "fighting for the state of New York."
Paterson took office amid the prostitution scandal that ended Eliot Spitzer's term, defiantly introducing himself to legislators at his swearing in, declaring: "I am David Paterson and I am the governor of New York!" Lawmakers cheered and welcomed the collegial former senator, especially after Spitzer's hardball tactics that alienated many of them. But two years later, his agenda was stalled, lawmakers disregarded him and he was sinking in the polls.
On Friday, Paterson cited a litany of distractions that prompted him to end his campaign.
"It's been an accumulation of obstacles that have obfuscated me from bringing my message to the public," he said.
There seemed to be one crisis after another: a bungled appointment to an open U.S. Senate seat, a budget standoff with the state Legislature, and, just this week, a damaging New York Times report, which said the governor and a member of his security detail had contacted a woman pressing an abuse charge against a top Paterson aide.
"He started out as a nice guy with the best wishes from everyone, and it just went downhill," said Maurice Carroll of the Quinnipiac University poll. "As a personal story, it's too bad because everyone who ever knew David Paterson liked him."
Politicians from both parties praised the governor's decision.
"I'm sure that he could have continued his campaign, but he did the right thing," said Jay Jacobs, the state Democratic party chairman. "We will not have a divisive primary at the top of the ticket."
Paterson's decision to abandon the race paved the way for state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to make an unimpeded run for the Democratic nomination.
Cuomo, son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, has already built a campaign fund five times larger than Paterson and consistently outpolled Paterson among New York Democrats, who hold a 2-to-1 edge over Republicans statewide. But he has declined to say whether he will run for governor.