August 28, 2009 @ 2:36 pm
Clyde Haberman of the Times sums up Bloomberg overkill quite nicely.
Anyone who turned to NY1 on Wednesday night got to see something exceedingly rare these days: a locally televised program that contained not a single commercial trumpeting the glories of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. If we had had our wits about us, we’d have recognized this as a sign and bought lottery tickets.
It isn’t enough for the mayor to have gamed New York’s term-limits law so that he could seek four more years. He also has no interest in making this election a fair fight.
He has applied a sliver of his fortune to burying cash-starved opponents under an avalanche of television ads, while using another sliver to rent political operatives who normally would have worked against him. In a different society, he might well have draped giant posters of himself on the outer walls of public buildings.
It is therefore instructive to study the results of a new poll from Quinnipiac University. It puts Mr. Bloomberg, an avowed independent running on the Republican line, well ahead of any Democratic candidate, be it City Councilman Tony Avella of Queens or, more likely, the city comptroller, William C. Thompson Jr. But the poll also shows that most New Yorkers are weary of the mayor’s penchant for buying whatever his heart desires.
By a ratio of almost 2 to 1, they say that his enormous campaign spending amounts to “overkill.” As for his television ad blitz, more people find it “annoying” than find it “informative.”
Will that irritation affect how they vote in November? Most say no. But the poll results suggest that if Mr. Bloomberg does ultimately triumph, he might not enter his third term with a deep reservoir of voter good will.
The reason the Bloomberg commercials were absent on Wednesday night is simple. The program, 90 minutes’ worth, was devoted to the first televised debate between Mr. Thompson and Mr. Avella.
With a Sept. 15 Democratic primary drawing near, the campaign schedule has tightened. Neither candidate could afford to pass up an opportunity to make himself better known, even if it meant squaring off in the last week of August, when New Yorkers focus less on politics than on savoring the last drops of summer.
Both Democrats have a political recognition problem, and it’s pretty bad.
In that same poll, fully 81 percent say they haven’t heard enough about Mr. Avella to form an opinion of him, favorable or unfavorable. Mr. Thompson fares better. The comparable figure for him is 51 percent. But that’s far from spectacular, considering that he has been the city’s chief financial officer for nearly eight years.
When New York politicians need to introduce themselves to voters, they often recite a tale of family woe. Refreshingly, Mr. Avella announced at the start of the debate that he would not perform this shopworn ritual. His career is rooted in politics and public service.
So is Mr. Thompson’s. But he chose the road well-traveled. While not born to great wealth, he has hardly had to eke out a hardscrabble existence. His father, William C. Thompson Sr., was a city councilman, a state senator and an appellate judge. Yet the son chose to say of himself, “Just like the people of New York City, I know what it’s like to struggle to get by.”
AN up-from-bottom appeal may sound good, but it is not foolproof. John C. Liu of Queens, the first Asian-American on the City Council, has learned that in his race to succeed Mr. Thompson as comptroller.
Mr. Liu, 42, is an immigrant success story. He and his parents came to this country from Taiwan when he was 5. His campaign ads recount how, by age 7, he was working alongside his mother in a garment industry sweatshop to help make ends meet. But Mr. Liu found himself playing defense this week after The Daily News reported that key details in the commercials were significantly embellished. Even if the councilman’s sweatshop story is completely accurate, some people may wonder how boyhood hardship translates into a credential for monitoring the city’s books.
If he wished, Mr. Bloomberg could tell his own tale. It’s not as if he teethed on the proverbial silver spoon.
But when you’re as rich as he is, it’s hard to spin a yarn about having once been a man of constant sorrow. Might as well spend whatever you want. Sure, some find it annoying. The mayor couldn’t care less. His reaction to the critics boils down to: Let them eat whatever it was that the French queen recommended way back when.