A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a staunch supporter of Christine Quinn who asked me to be frank in assessing Ms. Quinn’s chances of winning the race for mayor. “To be honest, I will have to wait for the next Marist poll to see whether her poll numbers stay at 24 percent or move ahead, or they continue to slide down towards 20 percent,” I responded.
My explanation was: Since Ms. Quinn has dropped from her peak at 38 percent in January to 24 in May, Weiner’s presence as a dominant figure in the race will determine what Christine Quinn’s ceiling and floor numbers are. “If Weiner moves up at the expense of Quinn, she’s in trouble, whereas if Weiner’s standing stays still or increases at the expense of the two Bills, then the race remains wide open,” I added.
Last night, after reviewing the poll data, I recalled my assessment to my friend and another operative and all I could imagine on the other side of the phone line was a head nodding in dismay.
This morning, I came across an identical assessment, based on the May Marist Poll prior to Tuesday night’s poll, by Harry J. Enten in the UK’s Guardian. “The big news is that the poll greatly upsets the general consensus that Quinn is a near lock to make the runoff. Quinn is at her weakest point in the past year,” he writes. “Quinn’s favorable numbers have, if you believe Quinnipiac, been falling among Democrats all year. She had a 64% favorable rating in January, 61% in February, 52% by late April, and will likely have 50% by late May.. What’s important to note here is that when controlling for pollsters, Quinn’s favorables have been falling steadily.”
More serious than just the tumbling favorables, Quinn’s current support is soft. In the Marist poll, only 30% of her voters strongly support her. In contrast, 39% of the overall electorate supports some candidate strongly, meaning Quinn has unusually dispassionate support. Weiner, meanwhile, who some thought was an anomaly of pure name recognition, has a far more fervent support: 43% of Weiner’s voters say they are strongly behind him.. The racial makeup of Quinn’s coalition suggests she’ll have further trouble. I’ve long argued that Quinn’s coalition is a house of cards built on support from minority voters, and that the strategy doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. She’s undermined by her own history, as when she blocked paid sick leave for an extended period, and she’s taken heat from minority groups for her position on stop-and-frisk. Quinn’s largely seen as something of an heir to the mayoralty of Mike Bloomberg, whose approval rating is at 49% among Democrats, but only at 42% among Latinos and 40% among African Americans. Quinn, on the other hand, scores 22% among white voters, 31% among Latinos and 26% among African Americans.
Thus, Enden confidently predicts: “I’m betting Bill Thompson will make the runoff. Per my math, a little less than half of Thompson’s supporters are with him strongly – far ahead of Quinn. He’s also a black candidate in a primary that is going to be near 30% African American, and New York City mayoral elections tend to break on ethnic and racial lines.. Bill Thompson is likely going to do better than polls suggest, and most of his untapped support is likely to come at Christine Quinn’s expense. Therefore, Quinn’s 24% may actually be closer to the ceiling than the floor of her support.”
“Given that Weiner’s support has been surprisingly strong, I don’t expect his numbers to fall much. That means that the first round of voting could result in a near tie between Quinn, Thompson and Weiner. In that scenario, Quinn could end up with the short end of the stick, and not in the runoff at all,” Enten concludes.
With last night’s poll showing Quinn’s drop in the polls is yet to be stopped, Enten’s bet and my assessment are vindicated, with the remaining weeks still to determine whether it is Weiner vs. Quinn, Thompson vs. Quinn or rather the shock of all times – Weiner vs. Thompson, in the runoff.