Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
All of the political prognosticators, including PolitickerNY's Steve Kornacki (and me too), have been skeptical that Democrat Bill Thompson can upset Michael Bloomberg in the New York City mayoral race. Still, Kornacki lays out the case for why Thompson could win:
Thompson's hope is that term limits will be the same under-the-radar phenomenon in 2009 New York that taxes were in 1990 New Jersey. It's rare for a single issue to become so resonant, but the Bradley example shows that, when it does, it can cancel out just about all of the advantages enjoyed by an otherwise invulnerable incumbent.
Of course, the prevailing assumption this year has been that term limits--a process issue--simply can't and won't motivate voters the way a tax hike might. In general, this is true: Congressmen routinely break term limits pledges and pay a negligible price in the next election.
But you could make a case that Bloomberg's situation is different. He didn't merely break a pledge--he threw his weight around to change the law, one that had twice been approved by voters. He's spent his political career (successfully) fighting the idea that he's just some rich, transactional plutocrat who thinks everything has a price. Against this backdrop, his term limits maneuvering is far more dangerous than simply going back on a promise. It invites emotional resentment from the public.
A new SurveyUSA poll shows Bloomberg only ahead 51%-43%, but I'm skeptical the race is really that close. Other polls have given Bloomberg a bigger lead.
If SurveyUSA's Web site is accurately describing their poll, they referred to the mayor as "Republican Mike Bloomberg." Bloomberg currently identifies himself as an independent and is running on the Republican and Independence Party lines. Calling Bloomberg a Republican (while not entirely inaccurate) in a poll very well might have made New Yorkers less likely to say they are going to vote for him.
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