The expectations game remains an open question
All the big oddsmakers say that Republican Mayor Bloomberg is a shoo-in for re-election over Democrat Bill Thompson come Tuesday.
FiveThirtyEight.com, a political Web site whose computer-modeled forecast accurately predicted the outcome of the presidential race in 49 out of 50 states last year, calls Thompson a 35-to-1 underdog.
Not so fast.
Closer to home, savvy political insiders say the race, while tilted in Bloomberg’s favor, remains neck-and-neck – and that every vote will count.
“Everyone focuses on the spread in polls, the 16%. But it’s not relevant,” says Bruce Gyory, a Democratic strategist who’s not working for either side in the mayor’s race.
According to Gyory, the number to watch is the gap between the percentage of registered voters who say they favor Bloomberg – 47% – and the slightly higher percentage of those who say they are likely to actually vote for him, which has remained at 53% for months.
Given an incumbent who is universally known with unlimited funds, says Gyory, virtually all still-undecided voters will likely vote for Thompson.
“The race is now a 5% Bloomberg lead and shrinking,” he says. “Thompson can get to 47 or 48% by Tuesday if he closes strong.”
And Gyory, like the Thompson camp, notes that four years ago, the final polls predicted Democrat Fernando Ferrer would get 32% – only to see him end with 41%.
In other words, Bloomberg is ahead, but by much less than press reports suggest – making the race a squeaker that could be decided by unpredictable factors.
Nobody can measure the effect that Bloomberg’s overturning of term limits will have, for instance, because no mayor has ever attacked his citizens’ voting rights so brazenly.
Nobody knows how many core Democratic voters – black and union households in particular – will ignore the purchased endorsements of their pastors or union presidents and vote for Thompson.
And speaking of party, it’s worth noting that Democratic registration has increased 14% over the past four years, with a sizable number of black, Latino and young people going to the polls for the first time in last year’s presidential contest. It’s hard to say how, or whether, they will vote.
The Asian vote – rarely sampled by pollsters because it’s so small – will be a factor this year because of John Liu‘s history-making presence on the ballot as controller.
Asian turnout will likely be double its usual 2%, and it’s fair to say most of them will favor Liu’s Democratic running mate, Thompson.
Finally, the expectations game remains an open question: We don’t know how many voters, inundated with mail, phone calls and TV ads, will assume that a purchased victory by the billionaire is a foregone conclusion and find something else to do on Tuesday.
I hope people act on Tuesday based on what everybody knows we will face in this town on Wednesday morning.
There will be 39,000 homeless people stretching the shelters to capacity and a mayor, Democrat or Republican, who said precious little during the campaign about how to help them.
On Wednesday morning, we’ll have a still-unresolved corruption investigation hovering over the City Council – a scandal the next mayor must aggressively root out and punish.
A spike in shootings in Central Brooklyn and other neighborhoods – many of them claiming an appalling number of teen murder victims – will still be a fact of life in a city routinely told that crime problems have either been solved or don’t much matter.
Come Wednesday, the middle-class exodus from New York City will continue, as families are unable to cope with the ever-rising taxes that sap household budgets.
And a multibillion-dollar budget deficit will all but guarantee massive municipal worker layoffs, although neither candidate has said which agencies will take the hit.
Most of all, we’ll have to stitch back together a badly frayed civic cloth. Preachers, pols and civic leaders who sold their endorsements or sat out the race will have to rebuild credibility in a city desperate for true leaders, rather than cash-hungry bookies playing the odds.
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