20 September 2009

Someone Says the Unthinkable

From columnist Michael Goodwin in the NY Post:

Why Dems’ David can topple Goliath Mike

Winning the Democratic primary for mayor ain’t what it used to be. Still, it’s better to win than lose, so Comptroller Bill Thompson wakes up today with a new view of the world.

He’s standing on a molehill, looking up at a mountain.

Most bets are not on whether Mayor Mike wins a third term, but on his margin of victory. Five points, 10 points or a repeat of the nearly 20-point blowout of poor Fernando Ferrer four years ago.

I wouldn’t bet against Bloomy, but his re-election isn’t a slam dunk. Thompson can win.

You read that right. Thompson can win.

I’m not saying he will, just that he can. He won’t need a miracle either. Lightning, thunder and luck, yes, but Thompson would hardly be the first David to bring down a Goliath. One is in the White House, and there are days when Bloomberg looks as ripe for a fall as Hillary Clinton was.

If the upset potential surprises you, welcome aboard. I surprised myself when the words “Thompson can win” first came out of my mouth.

That was three weeks ago. Until then, I subscribed to the conventional wisdom that he didn’t have a chance.

But speed bumps are popping up on the road to the king’s coronation. Reports of Bloomberg Fatigue are coming in from key constituencies — Staten Island homeowners and well-heeled Manhattanites. That could spell trouble for him.

“Think about it,” one formerly firm Bloomy man told me. “He’s been mayor for eight years and he has to spend $100 million now to reintroduce his brand.”

The complaints center on the soaring cost-of-living and binges in government spending, along with a sense the mayor feels entitled to a third term.

Whether Thompson, whose campaign has been lethargic on its good days, can exploit the opening is a big question. But for the first time, he has a real shot. Although the latest Quinnipiac poll puts him 15 points back, one survey showed a majority of New Yorkers wants a new mayor.

I spy three reasons for shifting sentiment. First, elections are a referendum on the incumbent, and this is not a good year for incumbents. The recession pain for many here is acute as incomes fall and prices keep rising.

Much of the pain is driven by City Hall, with spending under Bloomberg about 25 percent above inflation. Real-estate taxes are climbing even as market values fall, and virtually every levy and fee has gone up sharply since 2002, and still it’s not enough to satisfy the government beast. The businessman mayor, who promised to guard the buck, has been too quick to spend it.

The second factor in Thompson’s favor is Bloomberg’s cheesy maneuver to eliminate term limits. He was for them until they hit home, so POOF, he made them vanish. Doing the dirty deed with a scandal-scarred City Council further tarnished the mayor’s reputation.

The third factor is the schools. Compelling evidence shows many of the gains Bloomberg touts are suspect because tests and standards were dumbed down. He has doubled education spending to $22 billion a year, but with 74 percent of city grads who enroll at City University community colleges still needing remediation, the smell of a scam is in the air.

The hitch for Thompson is that swing voters he needs don’t yet see him as a real alternative. While his team believes a black, liberal Democrat in a minority-majority city starts with a voter base of 45 percent, he can’t win without peeling away some of the mayor’s soft support.

To do that, Thompson needs to show more fire in the belly and appeal to a beleaguered middle class that increasingly finds a sour taste in the Big Apple. That means cutting spending so the pressure won’t be there to increase revenues through excessive fines, fees and taxes.

It is a fact that the recession and an empty state piggy bank will force the next mayor into a more penny-pinching course. The first man to admit it now and show the way forward deserves the job.

Don’t be shocked if Thompson’s the one.

Nice to read. Let's hope there's some truth in it, and that Thompson wakes up and realizes he has a chance.


kingb said...

Unfortunately I don't see Thompson cutting spending, and will likely feed more into "big government".

I really thought Bloomberg was going to be tougher when it came to spending, fighting unions, eliminating waste, etc...But instead he's showing his true liberal colors as well.

A true fiscal conservative is what the city needs right now. Unfortunately such a person is not on the ballot.

I'll be staying home.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Well, at least that's one person not voting for Bloomberg. But, Kingb, is cutting spending the only issue that's important? The mayor subverted the law of the city, voted on twice by the people, for his own personal gain. Next to that, overspending rather pales as a sin.