Green’s Crisis Advantage

How Mark Topped Freddy in the Race to Rebuild

Green also brings a constancy of progressive purpose that eludes the elastic Freddy. Reformatted by the then Clintonesque consultant Dick Morris, Ferrer ran for mayor in 1997 as a pro-death-penalty moderate, converted by the killing of a Bronx cop. Today he talks only about brutal cops. He's apologized for calling late-term abortions "barbaric," but his statement, also in 1997, that there's "no reason to abort a child every time a woman hiccups" sounds so authentic it's hard to believe that it wasn't his consultant, not his conscience, that changed. He's even flipped on his recent Giuliani proposal, swinging from a clear offer to name the mayor the head of his reconstruction authority to making him a dollar-a-day recovery overseer until the rubble is gone.

In 1993, 60 percent of the general election vote was white, and Rudy Giuliani, running against a Democratic incumbent mayor, got 77 percent of it. That means Giuliani won roughly 824,000 white votes, almost enough alone to top David Dinkins's 858,000 total vote. As black and Latino as the Democratic primary vote was last month—and exit polls may have underestimated it at 47 percent—it will not dominate in November. These voters can nominate Ferrer, with almost no white, Asian, or other allies, but they cannot elect him. That is why Michael Bloomberg is salivating for a shot at Ferrer.

Ready to spend another $15 million on a television blitzkrieg over what will now be only a 25-day general election campaign, Bloomberg can be elected if whites are a slightly larger share than their 1993 percent or if he gets just a bit more of their vote than Giuliani. A suddenly popular president, governor, and incumbent mayor will be at his side, with war waging in the background. The tabloids will be bashing Ferrer daily. The Times will not endorse him, and may even, despite Bloomberg's campaign-finance sins, decide that it cannot remain neutral.

Harold Ickes, the longtime Clinton strategist, is locked in a back room of the Ferrer headquarters now, working often until late at night, trying to put together the national Democratic pieces that can help Ferrer overcome these Bloomberg advantages. He, the Chicago-based Axelrod, and Democratic National Committee vice chair Bill Lynch are among the seasoned Ferrer advisers who are determined to make sure that a runoff win this Thursday doesn't just become a cheap thrill, soon crushed by four more Republican years. They know that Ferrer's message, Sharpton alliance, and campaign ethos make a race against Bloomberg far more difficult for him than it would be for Green.

Bloomberg has said nothing in this campaign that has inflamed or divided—other than his constant championing of everything Giuliani—but his free-spending presence is a reason for Democrats to consciously pick a November winner, one who is ready to take us through our toughest time.


Research assistance: Greg Bensinger, Lisa Marie Williams, Catherine Worth

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