The state of polling in the New York mayor’s race must leave many people scratching their heads. Cranial scuffing is also taking place in the controller’s race.
Anthony Weiner, serial sex tweeter to strange ladies, heads the mayoral race, while admitted prostitute user Eliot Spitzer leads in the comptroller contest.
There were widespread predictions of doom and political suicide when both men entered their races, but it appears for the moment anyway that celebrity trumps substance.
Successive polls have shown them ahead in their races, and while naysayers may proclaim it a temporary phenomenon, time is running out.
The celebrity/notoriety issue has become the X factor. One wonders what Paris Hilton would poll, or perhaps New York native Lindsay Lohan if she decided to run?
President Obama half ran on his celebrity status as the first serious black contender for the White House. In a celebrity obsessed world perhaps it is the new normal.
Having a sex scandal seems to be good for business too after appropriate time off, though it hardly seems that long since Weiner and Spitzer were in pants down mode.
Peering down into the numbers it is bad news indeed for the other contenders. Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker, has seen her numbers tank from a runaway leader to second place as the dreaded curse of the front-runner takes hold.
Quinn is suffering from her perceived closeness to outgoing Mayor Mike Bloomberg, whose third term is ending in a blaze of controversy over issues such as racial profiling and sheer over-familiarity.
Bill Thompson, the only black candidate for mayor, must be truly shaking his head. Polling shows that Weiner wins an incredible 40 percent of the black vote over Thompson, who should be creaming the opposition among his own core supporters.
One wonders when Thompson will make the move to shore up black support. Until he does he is an also ran. He is floundering, barely in the double figures, and in dire danger of not making the run off in September.
Experts say that the polls will continue to reflect celebrity, even notoriety more than substance until New Yorkers begin to focus on the race.
But what if they don’t, seeing as the primaries take place in early September just after the summer swoon and as parents are focused on the new school year?
Spitzer’s wide margin against his Democratic opponent Scott Stringer is even more puzzling given that Stringer is well known as Manhattan borough president and has a large war chest and seemed to be cruising to victory.
Weiner at least was a highly regarded member of Congress by the media any way. Spitzer was a bust as New York governor even before the scandal that swept him from office.
Yet there he is far ahead of Stringer and seemingly loving his new media celebrity – there is that word again.
Are we looking at a permanent change in political sensibilities and public boredom with sex scandals? In this all-Twitter age it may be so, where every scandal has the life cycle of a gnat on speed.
In the meantime we will watch and wait. Just a few months ago Quinn looked like she was set to be the first Irish American gay mayor in New York history. Now she is far from that. And Stringer too must be reeling after looking home and hosed.
A week is indeed along time in politics, but there are likely more twists and turns to come in what is truly a bizarre year so far.