N.Y. mayor's race front-runner cast as a 'socialist redistributionist'
Democrat Bill de Blasio, the most liberal major candidate in the New York City mayor's race, is leading polls ahead of the Sept. 10 primary. Republicans sense an opportunity.
[Updated Thursday 7 p.m. EDT] The surprising ascendancy of New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio may have energized the liberal wing of city Democrats, but the commanding mayoral front-runner has some Republicans cheering as well.Skip to next paragraph
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Despite the fact that the Republican line has won the mayor’s office five consecutive times in New York, conventional wisdom has long had the Democratic nominee easily winning the Nov. 5 general election this year.
It is still a city in which registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 6 to 1, after all, and which gave Obama 81 percent of its votes in 2012. Even the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who won three terms on the Republican line, has deftly played down standard partisan divisions during his 12-year tenure.
But Mr. de Blasio has stunned the more moderate Democratic candidates the past few weeks with his relentless critique of the Bloomberg administration, as well as his dogged liberal message of income inequality in the shadow of Wall Street wealth. He also was very effective showcasing his interracial family – including his teenage son, Dante, whose Afro-style hair and descriptions of his father in campaign commercials have become some of the most memorable of the race.
With the support of 43 percent of likely Democratic voters, he could win the primary without a runoff, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll.
Yet these same traits, so appealing to a growing segment of city Democrats, could be used against him come November.
“Republicans will be looking to really frame this election as continuing the course, going forward with the progress we’ve made as a city under [former Mayor Rudolph] Giuliani and Bloomberg," says David Johnson, a senior Republican consultant and CEO of Strategic Vision, an Atlanta-based political consulting agency. "And they see [de Blasio’s rise] as a chance to really frame it this way.”
It’s an argument that Republicans would have much more difficulty launching against the other top Democrats, including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, or former Comptroller Bill Thompson, both of whom who have run careful, centrist campaigns – at least by New York City standards.
“With Quinn, and with some of the others like Thompson, Republicans don’t see this dynamic as much,” continues Mr. Johnson, a veteran of high-profile political campaigns. “But de Blasio, they do, and they feel really that they have a chance to hit him for being so liberal, so out of step and potentially costly to New York.”
Make no mistake, the odds are still stacked against either of the leading Republican candidates. Joe Lhota, former deputy mayor under Mayor Giuliani, currently leads John Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of a grocery store chain, by a 2-to-1 margin, according to the Quinnipiac poll.
But Republicans could see a glimmer of hope against a de Blasio nomination, many observers say.