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8th September

First Published in The New York Sun, September 8, 2005

By Andrew Wolf

When was the last time the (newly converted) Republican candidate polled better among Democrats than any “real” Democrat? If the Quinnipiac Poll released yesterday and the Marist poll released a few days earlier are accurate, then there’s no way any Democrat can defeat Mayor Bloomberg.

The Bloomberg dream scenario, a runoff between C. Virginia Fields and Fernando Ferrer, appears increasingly unlikely. Ms. Fields is fading fast. With little money in the bank, she continues to trail her opponents in buying advertising time, making it almost impossible for her to catch up.
Mr. Bloomberg’s strategists, who are targeting the black and Latino communities, were hoping a divisive runoff would help their efforts with the losing side.

If they can’t have a Ferrer-Fields contest,conventional wisdom holds that any runoff will help the mayor,since any oneon-one contest is likely to go negative. Whoever the mayor ultimately faces will thus be “softened up” by the loser, without the mayor appearing as the “heavy.”

It is hard to dispute that, but I will.

What the mayor needs to avoid is allowing another candidate to grab momentum.The “big mo” is the most valuable commodity in electoral politics. In this scenario, a late surge propels either Rep. Anthony Weiner or Council Speaker Gifford Miller into the runoff. Then it carries forward in a brief, but intensely fought runoff campaign and leads to an upset victory against Mr. Ferrer. That could make for a tough race for the mayor.

Both polls agree the Mr. Ferrer has “no mo,” at least now, having not moved up in the polls for months. At the point when it becomes two and not four candidates, a different atmosphere prevails, particularly when one is a fresh face,and the other the familiar Mr. Ferrer.

Increasingly, the fresh face appears to be that of Mr. Weiner. He is now in second place, and on the rise, in both polls.That has already generated favorable publicity, generating more of that treasured momentum.

Mr. Miller appears to be falling behind, which makes it an especially bad time to get distressing news from the Campaign Finance Board, which has found that much of the expenditures he claimed as exempt from the spending cap should indeed be counted against it. If that holds, Mr. Miller’s television blitz will have effectively ended days before the primary.

That is why Mr. Miller is so eager for all candidates to declare a moratorium on TV ads for this Sunday, the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The cash-poor campaigns of Mr. Ferrer and Ms. Fields are also holding back, but Mr.Weiner is loath to take a break from the airwaves just as things are going swimmingly for him.

He has refused to pull his Sunday ads,giving him a clear field to reach the voters at a critical juncture, two days before the primary. Mr.Weiner suggested the continuation of the political process pays tribute to the fallen, but that didn’t satisfy Mr.Miller,who is desperately eager not to let his rival get a chance to widen the gap between them.

No wonder Mr. Miller’s campaign spokesman, Stephen Sigmund, charged, “It’s wrong for Anthony Weiner to air advertisements on September 11, but it’s even more wrong to justify this political move by claiming it ‘pays tribute’ to the victims.”

Indeed, foreign entanglements have become the focus of attacks on Mr. Weiner, particularly from Mr. Miller, who wants to prevent his foe from gaining any more ground and winning the second-place spot in the runoff. Mr. Weiner voted for the initial resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq, a vote Mr. Miller, a member in good standing of the Howard Dean fan club, wants every like-minded Manhattan liberal to know about. That Mr. Weiner was joined in this by Senators Schumer and Clinton, two fellow Democrats Mr. Miller would never dare attack, is beside the point.

A Ferrer-Weiner runoff would be a historic matchup, one where all bets would be off.

It is likely the Democratic establishment would line up with Mr. Ferrer. But the same establishment reckoned Ruth Messinger would be a better mayor than Rudolph Giuliani. Still, you can bet that joining them in silent prayer will be Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign advisers. They are “ready for Freddy,” armed with plenty of ammunition to rebut and turn back at the former Bronx president anything he throws at them. Mr. Weiner, another breed of cat, could well catch the mayor off guard by coming at him from the right, rather than the left.

© 2005 The New York Sun, One, SL, LLC. All rights reserved.

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