October 15, 2009 @ 12:30 pm
Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign may look unbeatable – but some insiders see troubling signs that he could be tossed out of City Hall.
They fear lingering voter anger about term limits, low-turnout primaries, passionate anti-Bloomberg Democrats and complacent Bloomberg supporters could combine to create the biggest political upset of a generation.
“I’d be worried,” said one of the mayor’s prominent backers, who fears moderate pro-Bloomberg voters won’t bother voting Nov. 3 if they assume the mayor will win.
“If you’re just a voter who kind of likes Bloomberg, you don’t come out,” this backer said. “If you hate Bloomberg . . . you come out.”
The prospect of loss may seem laughable to New Yorkers who have been bombarded with ads and mailers from Bloomberg’s $64.8 million campaign.
Still, some longtime political observers believe his rival, city Controller William Thompson, has struck a nerve with his harsh attack on Bloomberg for extending term limits.
That has prompted Bloomberg’s campaign to fire back with attack ads against Thompson – giving the controller more exposure than he could ever afford with the $3.8 million he has spent on his campaign.
“The negative ads give Billy credibility, and I think they give him recognition among voters,” said one experienced political consultant and Bloomberg backer.
The mayor’s campaign on Wednesday released a minute-long Internet ad that used footage from Tuesday night’s debate to paint Thompson as a liar running away from his record.
“You’ve never seen that with them. The fact that they’re doing that means that they have to be nervous,” said another veteran Bloomberg ally. “They have a problem. And I think turnout could wind up very low.”
Another factor emerged in a new WABC-TV poll that shows Bloomberg with a 17-point lead over Thompson – far higher than the 8-point lead it showed just a week earlier.
The earlier poll identified Bloomberg as a Republican and Thompson as a Democrat, while the more recent one didn’t – implying that voters in an overwhelmingly Democratic city may reflexively support Thompson in the voting booth.
“You don’t have hundreds of thousands of people who think Bloomberg is next to God,” said one of his Democratic backers. “You have thousands of people who just hate this man.”
Bloomberg’s campaign manager, Bradley Tusk, rejected any idea that his candidate is in trouble.
“It’s hard to be in a much better position – with a high double-digit lead, the most sophisticated field operation in the city’s history, massive resources, and far most importantly, a candidate with an approval rating of 70%,” Tusk said.
Bloomberg campaign volunteers have knocked on more than a million doors since April and put extra focus on often-overlooked ethnic groups that could be so flattered by the attention they make an extra effort to vote Bloomberg.
Bloomberg’s team is emphasizing getting supporters to the polls on Election Day – an enormous effort that Tusk hopes will swamp Thompson’s.
“Traditionally, field operations get you 2 to 4 points,” he said. “We believe that our field operation could get as much as 4 to 6 points.”
Still, one of Bloomberg’s biggest supporters in the City Council, Democrat Peter Vallone of Queens, cautioned that low turnout in this year’s primary – about 11% – should be cause for concern.
“The primary and the runoff results shook the worlds of a lot of political people and are making everyone rethink their strategy,” Vallone said.
“Conventional get-out-the-vote was not effective. Anyone who didn’t have a personal interest stayed home.”