Besieged on both her left and her right, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's commanding lead in September's Democratic mayoral primary is showing signs of slippage, a new poll released on Wednesday suggests.
The Quinnipiac University poll still shows Quinn leading her closest Democratic opponent, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, by 18 points, 32 percent to 14 percent. But Quinn has lost some ground in the poll over the past six weeks; in the previous poll, conducted in late February, Quinn led the field with 37 percent of the primary vote.
De Blasio can hardly claim second place for himself, the poll shows. Former Comptroller Bill Thompson, the 2009 Democratic nominee, is a tick behind him, with 13 percent. The current comptroller, John Liu, is fourth, with 7 percent. Three-in-ten Democratic voters are undecided.
As the early favorite, Quinn has tried to position herself for the general election, and that positioning, along with her frontrunner status, has made her a frequent target of attacks. Last month, she engineered a compromise on legislation that guaranteed paid sick leave that pleased some constituencies, but angered some Democrats who felt the bill did not go far enough, and some to her right, like independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who feel the bill is anti-business. Similarly, Quinn's calls for an independent inspector general to oversee the New York Police Department have been met with protests from Bloomberg and Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota, who called the proposal "reckless and dangerous."
Quinn has also made enemies on her left. A coalition of labor and other Democratic groups launched a $250,000 attack ad this week, in which the narrator says about Quinn, "She wants you to think that she's a progressive, but on the issues New Yorkers care most about, she is always on the wrong side." The most damning hit against Quinn among Democrats is her support for overturning the city's term limits, thereby enabling Bloomberg to win a third term in 2009. On Tuesday, Quinn, who says she will seek legal action to stop the ad, asked the other candidates in the race to disavow ads from outside groups like the one now targeting her. The Quinnipiac poll was largely conducted before the ad was released.
Quinn's 5-point drop might not seem like much -- given the poll's margin of error, the drop could be even slighter -- but falling further below the key 40-percent threshold is damaging to Quinn's chances. If no candidate earns 40 percent of the vote in the primary, the top two candidates will advance to a runoff to be held slightly after the primary. That could give some Democrats opposed to Quinn's candidacy the opportunity to coalesce around one alternative.
On the Republican side, Lhota remains ahead in the primary, though he still suffers from woeful name recognition: A majority of GOP voters, 54 percent, say they do not know enough about him to form an opinion. He commands 23 percent of the primary vote, the poll shows, the same percentage he did in January, shortly before launching his campaign. The percentage of undecided GOP voters, 52 percent, is also virtually equal to the percentage of undecideds in January.
Lhota remains a significant underdog in a general election, according to the poll. Quinn leads him by 40 percentage points among all registered voters, while Thompson has a 38-point lead, de Blasio leads by 37 points, and Liu runs 32 points ahead.
The poll was conducted April 3-8, surveying 1,417 registered voters. The margin of error for the full poll is plus-or-minus 2.6 percentage points. For the subsample of 925 Democrats, the margin of error is plus-or-minus 3.2 percentage points. The much smaller subsample of 188 Republicans carries a margin of error of plus-or-minus 7.2 percentage points.
Notably, the poll did not test disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner among the Democratic candidates. Weiner, who is still registered with the city's Campaign Finance Board as a mayoral candidate, told the New York Times Magazine in a story published online early Wednesday that he is eyeing the race for mayor, but his San Francisco-based pollster, David Binder, "said I'd be the underdog in any race I ran."