Thursday, December 18, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: How Weiner Poll Vaulted Over Christine Quinn

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He was a political punch line, now Anthony Weiner is no laughing matter.

Since he launched his quixotic campaign for mayor last month, Weiner has jumped to the top of the dog pile in the crowded Democratic race for mayor – if you believe a new poll. (And I do.)

While Weiner has had no magical moment on the campaign trail, he has clearly tapped into dissatisfaction with the rest of the Democratic field. The poll shows that he’s been able to win back a significant portion of voters who supported him before he naughty Tweeted himself into a premature political retirement.

What’s equally remarkable is that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is having her status revoked as the early frontrunner in the race. Hovering close to the magic 40 percent mark in earlier polls, Quinn now sees herself trailing Weiner – and only seven percentage points ahead of Bill Thompson. Part of Quinn’s collapse can be traced to the fact that she’s had a target on her back for several months with her rivals ganging up on her and an independent group spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads trashing her. But for several months, Quinn adopted an almost placid Rose Garden strategy, in which she largely avoided addressing her foes’ attacks and plugged away on the campaign trail while rarely making headlines.

The icing on Quinn’s Rose Garden cake was supposed to be her memoir, “Patience and Fortitude” – two traits that one must embrace in order to finish reading the 240-page book. Her rather bland tome could serve as a metaphor for Quinn’s cautious early campaign. While she at times writes movingly of her family and her struggles with bulimia and her sexual identity, Quinn barely touches on what drives her politically and what she’s achieved as the city’s most powerful Democratic leader. If you want to know what Quinn’s plans are for Gracie Mansion, that’s apparently being saved for the sequel. (And a sequel seems unlikely since Quinn only sold 100 copies of the book in its first week in stores.)

Last week, Quinn smartly shifted her strategy and has not only been talking up her accomplishments as speaker but also taking on her rivals, claiming they’re all talk and no action. Her drama-free budget deal with the mayor (which the Council is set to vote on tonight) can help her continue to make her case as the candidate who is the adult in the room.

But let’s not get carried away with the “new narrative” in the mayor’s race and anoint anyone as the frontrunner. Political consultant Jerry Skurnik has been cautioning everyone to take a deep breath when polls are released and he’s largely right. Many New Yorkers have no idea there’s a Democratic primary in less than three months – let alone that Mayor Bloomberg is in his final year in office. Remember the GOP presidential race when even Rick Santorum got to be the frontrunner for five minutes? There is still plenty of time for each candidate to have his or her moment in the sun in what will be a very interesting summer.

Bob Hardt

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