Former Queens/Brooklyn congressman Anthony Weiner, who resigned from office in disgrace amid a “sexting” scandal in 2011, is now the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in the race for mayor of New York City, according to the latest NBC NY/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll.
Weiner, with 25 percent of registered Democrats polled, leads City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, at 20 percent. Behind them are former comptroller Bill Thompson with 13 percent, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio with 10 percent, and current comptroller John Liu with 8 percent. The last poll, in May, had Quinn ahead of Weiner 24-19.
Speaker Quinn’s fortunes have fallen dramatically in recent months — in February, 37 percent of Democrats backed her, nearly twice her current rate of support. And surprisingly, Weiner is even ahead of her among females, albeit by a slight 22-21 margin.
With the usual crowded Democratic field, a runoff is all but guaranteed, as no candidate is likely to win the 40 percent required to avoid one in the Sept. 10 primary. And the runoff scenarios are where this poll gets interesting: In a runoff between Quinn and Weiner, she would beat him 44-42 (the last poll had Ms. Quinn ahead in that scenario by a 15-percent margin).
In a potential matchup between Quinn and Thompson, Quinn is up 42-40. And in a runoff between Thompson and Weiner, Thompson holds a razor-thin 42-41 lead. However, all three runoff scenarios show large numbers of Democratic voters — 15 to 18 percent — still undecided.
Asked how he felt about Weiner’s sudden leap to the front of the race, Thompson — who lost by only 5 points to Michael Bloomberg in the 2009 race after polls said he would be blown out — smiled.
“Look, I’ve said before, polls, I’ve seen how inaccurate they’ve been over the years, and how inaccurate they continue to be,” he said. “I’m not worried about the polls right now.” Thompson, it should be noted, has the highest favorability rating of all the current Democratic candidates, with 60 percent of Democrats saying they have a positive impression of him — while only 16 percent do not. Last month, his favorability rating sat at 52 percent.
“Things are changing—the race has been scrambled by Weiner’s candidacy,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Weiner’s candidacy has gotten more acceptable to voters since he announced, [and] Quinn’s having a difficult time reversing what has been a slow but steady decline in her numbers.”
Indeed, Quinn’s popularity took a hit in March, when a New York Times profile portrayed her in a decidedly harsh light. She has also taken criticism on the campaign trail for her perceived “too close” relationship with outgoing mayor Bloomberg — including her strenuous support of overturning term limits to allow him to run a third time — with her rivals suggesting that a Quinn mayoralty will be akin to a fourth Bloomberg term. The Speaker’s favorability rating has dropped 3 percent from 60 to 57 since the last poll in May.
“We fully expect the polls to fluctuate throughout the campaign,” said Quinn spokesman Mike Morey. “But we are confident that on Election Day when voters have to decide who they want to lead this city, they will choose someone who has demonstrated the ability to lead and deliver.”
Weiner, on the other hand, saw an 8-point rise in his favorability to 52 percent, while the percentage of those who had a negative impression of him dropped 8 points, from 44 to 36 percent.
“This won’t change our focus one bit,” Barbara Morgan, a Weiner spokeswoman, said. “Anthony is going to keep talking about the issues and how to stand up for New Yorkers who want a middle class fighter in City Hall.”
The survey polled 689 registered Democrats and had a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.