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23rd June

First Published in The New York Sun, June 23, 2005

By Andrew Wolf

There isn’t a scintilla of good news for any of the Democratic candidates in the results of the Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday. What it shows for them is a disaster in the making, an election that Mayor Bloomberg increasingly seems destined to win decisively.

It isn’t just the matchups between the mayor and his prospective opponents that provide the grim news. It is that the results offer no clear road map for any Democrat to turn the situation around. Of course, there is a long time between now and the election. Anything can happen. But it is the mayor with his millions who is better positioned to smooth bumps in the road as they develop than his prospective opponents who must search for the magic bullet with which to slay the giant while trying to raise campaign funds.
The key issue a Democrat in this town has when confronting a Republican is exploiting his opponent’s party affiliation. Us against Them, Red against Blue. But how to fight a Republican viewed favorably by a majority of Democrats? Even in the Bronx, Fernando Ferrer’s home turf, the mayor is viewed favorably by 49% of those surveyed, with another 12% undecided — some of whom are likely to break the mayor’s way.

That is why Mr. Bloomberg is opening up his lead against Mr. Ferrer, presumed by many as his most likely ultimate opponent. Even as it seems that the former Bronx borough president is putting his Amadou Diallo faux pas behind him, Mr. Bloomberg has tacked three points onto his lead since last month. Currently, Quinnipiac has the mayor 13 points ahead of Mr. Ferrer. If the undecideds break the same way, then Mr. Bloomberg is on track to match the 57% to 41% re-election blowout enjoyed by Mayor Giuliani over Ruth Messinger back in 1997.

Where does Mr. Ferrer go to find the votes to make up the difference? That’s a tough question. Fully half of the Democratic voters surveyed had a favorable impression of the job that the mayor is doing.

Mr. Giuliani won re-election with virtually no support in the city’s black community. But according to Quinnipiac, nearly half of black voters view Mr. Bloomberg favorably. Since blacks are the most reliable Democratic constituency, this is not good news for any Democratic candidate.

Even when pitted against Mr. Ferrer, Mr. Bloomberg holds his own among Hispanic voters.The poll has Mr. Ferrer predictably defeating the mayor among Latinos, but only by a 51% to 40% margin. This is not the huge margin that one would expect from a group ostensibly eager to see the first Hispanic win Gracie Mansion. Compare this to the huge support enjoyed by Mayor Dinkins among blacks during his two mayoral elections in 1989 and 1993.

As bad as things are for Mr. Ferrer, they are worse for the other Democrats in the field. At least Quinnipiac projects that Mr. Ferrer can hold on to his home borough of the Bronx.

This poll has Mr. Bloomberg winning every single borough when matched up against any of the Democratic contenders, except for the Bronx against Mr. Ferrer. Clearly, a powerful tide is building for the mayor.

The news for the Ferrer camp is not too good even within the Democratic primary. It is widely thought that the best chance Mr. Ferrer has to beat Mr. Bloomberg would only come if he wins the Democratic primary outright and avoids a bruising runoff. But according to Quinnipiac, Mr. Ferrer has only 31% of the primary vote, well short of the 40% threshold needed to avoid a runoff.

And with the two white candidates in the race — Rep.Anthony Weiner and Council Speaker Gifford Miller — locked in a fierce battle for last place, as of now that runoff looks to be between Manhattan Borough President C.Virginia Fields and Mr. Ferrer.This is the matchup the Ferrer team would most like to avoid, the one that minimizes a reprise of the Sharpton-assisted Black-Latino “other New York” coalition, which was led by Mr. Ferrer four years ago.

As for Ms. Fields, the proof that there was nothing good in this poll for her is borne out by the fact that even her strategist, the crafty Joseph Mercurio, took until the end of the day yesterday until he found a dim ray of sunshine among the Q-poll’s clouds. Usually his upbeat analysis would be emailed milliseconds after the release of the poll data, which in this case was early morning. But this time my electronic mailbox was empty until 4:20 p.m., when Mr. Mercurio’s communication finally arrived.

All of the Democratic candidates oppose Wal-Mart and other “big box” store proposals for Gotham, but Rep. Anthony Weiner has kicked his opposition up a notch. Yesterday, Mr. Weiner was joined by Senator Kennedy, the Democrat of Massachusetts, to announce the introduction of “new legislation designed to ascertain the true costs of the ‘Wal-Mart economy.’ The Health Care Accountability Act would shine public scrutiny on the failure of large businesses to furnish health care coverage to their employees, and the associated costs for taxpayers.”

Among the candidates,only the mayor supports the arrival of the nation’s biggest retailer to the Big Apple.

A number of mailings have begun to surface from the Democratic hopefuls. The best so far comes from Ms. Fields. It features a photo of Ms. Fields as a youngster in close proximity to the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., welldesigned to firm up her base among black voters.

The trick is what comes next.

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

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