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28th April

First Published in The New York Sun, April 28, 2005

By Andrew Wolf

Last week, with my tongue parked firmly in my cheek, I speculated that Fernando Ferrer was following a “Springtime for Freddy” campaign scenario straight out of “The Producers,” a deliberate effort of self-sabotage.After looking at the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion poll released early yesterday, maybe life really does imitate art.

If the poll results are to be believed, Mr. Ferrer has lost a frightening amount of support.Last month,Mr.Ferrer led the mayor in a head-to-head matchup by a solid seven points. Just a month later, he trails Mr. Bloomberg by 13 points. That is a 20-point movement in just one lunar cycle.There are a few analysts and observers — among them Mayor Koch — who now believe it is possible that Mr. Ferrer might not even make the primary runoff. It was widely believed that, until the flap over Mr. Ferrer’s remarks about Amadou Diallo, the former Bronx borough president was within striking distance of winning the primary outright by reaching the 40% threshold.
The mayor has improved his position against all the possible Democratic hopefuls. Only C. Virginia Fields has reason to smile, losing the least ground among the four candidates, within the margin of error.
Of course, it is very early. There is plenty of time for any of the candidates to catch fire or cool down. It also should be noted that the mayor was identified as a Republican, and the four possible opponents were identified as Democrats. This is accurate, but does not reflect the actual November lineup. Assuming that Mr. Bloomberg prevails over former council member Thomas Ognibene in the Republican primary, Mr. Ognibene will almost certainly still appear on the November ballot as the Conservative Party candidate.This will cost the mayor some votes.

Mr. Bloomberg will once again be on the Independence Party line, which, up until this year, was beneficial. In 2001, the line might have provided Mr. Bloomberg his margin of victory. But thanks to growing awareness of the background and activities of Lenora Fulani, the Independence Party could become an albatross around the mayor’s neck as the campaign wears on. These are the nuances that make real elections very different from publicopinion polls. But that said, believe me, it is better being on the upswing than the decline.

Ms. Fulani, the de facto Independence Party chief, was a no-show on New York 1’s “Road to City Hall” television program Tuesday evening. This was probably good news for Mayor Bloomberg.

By staying away, Ms. Fulani spared the mayor and his press aides another day of having to explain away whatever remarks she might have made. She certainly disappointed me, as I had sharpened a gross of no. 2 pencils to take notes and microwaved a bag of popcorn in anticipation of the entertainment.

Ms. Fulani did find time earlier in the day to speak to a gathering of the American Muslim Task Force, as reported yesterday by my Sun colleague Julia Levy. Ms. Fulani urged the group to support her Independence Party, becoming a proxy-by-default for the mayor, who was invited but didn’t attend — despite having accepted the invitation — according to a task-force spokesman.

Ms. Fulani set the stage for her absence from the television show by noting that New York 1 is owned by Time Warner, which, she insists, has ties to the Democratic Party. I guess that is how they hypnotized her into making her controversial remarks during her last appearance, which set off a flurry of well-deserved negative publicity.

I have to admit that the scheduled Fulani appearance got me thinking as to how low politics has sunk in Gotham. We are hanging on the words of Ms. Fulani — someone who is so far out of the mainstream that she might as well represent the planet Mars. The previous evening, “The Road to City Hall” featured the Rev. Alford Sharpton, who represents, quite ably I might add, the Rev. Alford Sharpton.

It is remarkable that I read stories quoting otherwise astute political observers discussing Rev. Sharpton’s decision not to endorse any of the Democratic candidates as if he were merely displeased with the campaigns or positions of the candidates. Public policy is never part of the Sharpton equation. Similarly, the effort to present Rev. Sharpton as some sort of conscience of the Democratic Party is laughable. Just ask some of the Republicans he has helped in recent years, such as Governor Pataki,Senator D’Amato,and State Senator Guy Velella.

I predict that ultimately Rev. Sharpton will endorse Ms. Fields, particularly if the Manhattan borough president continues to pick up steam. Rev. Sharpton cannot afford to sit on the sidelines while a credible black candidate moves ahead. Should Ms. Fields fall slightly short of a spot in the runoff, Rev. Sharpton won’t want to be blamed for the failure of New York’s African-American community to regain City Hall.

Yesterday, I paraphrased a great quote about the New York City Council being less than a rubber stamp because at least a rubber stamp leaves an impression.

Lest anyone think that I was clever enough to come up with that jewel on my own, allow me to disabuse you of that impression.The brilliant author of that observation is Henry Stern, the former parks commissioner who himself served as council member-at-large from the borough of Manhattan. Mr. Stern came up with this oft-quoted phrase more than 40 years ago, a description still as fresh as the morning dew.

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

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