Campaign 2005’s About the Polls, Not the Poor


“We all know what’s going to happen in the mayoral election,” said a Democratic operative to me this morning, and that’s bad news for Freddy, Virginia, Giff, and Anthony. If you’re a candidate, worse than any gaffe or flip-flop or poorly pitched policy is the moment when your own party loyalists begin to believe you don’t have a prayer, because then they start talking about something else, the media tunes out, and nobody hears the case for being mayor that you haven’t yet had the chance to make.

The conclusion that election 2005 is all over but for the strained concession speech is, of course, exaggerated. If Ferrer somehow escapes a runoff and goes head to head against Bloomberg with a fairly united party behind him and ethnic history-making ahead, things will look a lot different than they did in today’s New York Times poll. The survey has Ferrer at only 29 percent in the primary field—well short of the 40 percent needed to nix the runoff—and losing to Bloomberg 54-32.

Anthony Weiner’s campaign crowed about his moving into second place in the poll against Ferrer with 13 percent to Fields’ 12 and Miller’s 10. But all three get trounced by Bloomberg worse than Freddy. Even among Democrats, Bloomberg wins: Asked for whom they’d vote if the mayor were in the primary, Dems pick Bloomberg over Ferrer 48-19 percent. That’s worse than even Ruth Messinger did in a September 1997 Quinnipiac poll, where Democrats favored Rudy Giuliani over Messinger 49-42.

And why not? Things are great here in the big city . . . unless you’re one of the 100,000 New Yorkers who slipped into poverty between 2003 and 2004. In data released Tuesday, the Census Bureau reported that New York City’s poverty rate went up from 19 percent to 20.3 percent. Of the nine towns in America with a million or more residents, NYC was the only one to see its poverty rate increase.

Now, back to campaign 2005. “It would be nice if the mayoral candidates talked less about tax cuts and rebates and more about realistic strategies for lifting the one out of five New Yorkers who live in poverty into the middle class,” said Working Families Party executive director Dan Cantor. After all, as the Gotham Gazette reports, Bloomberg’s record on poverty bears close examination. Ferrer lashed out at the mayor over the poverty stats yesterday, and Weiner is unveiling a poverty plan today. But the New York Post didn’t even mention the new poverty figures, and the New York Times only referenced the NYC numbers in the 17th graph of a story in the national section. At least the Daily News managed to get in a piece about it.

“For the last four years, the mainstream media has mostly ignored the growing poverty, hunger, and homelessness in the City, as well as attempts by the Public Advocate and the City Council to address these issues,” says Joel Berg of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “Even when candidates for Mayor have made statements and issued plans about poverty and hunger, they are often ignored my the mainstream media—in favor of coverage of polls, fundraising, and so-called gaffes.”

Like this very blog posting—about a poll. Damn, it’s contagious!