Stick a fork in them
Don't be fooled by the calendar. It says June, but in political time, it's starting to feel like November for the Democrats who want to be mayor. Absent a dramatic event or gaffe, the election is over and Mayor Mike gets four more years.
The door all but slammed shut for the challengers with the record jump in student test scores announced last week. With an increase of 14.4 percentage points in students meeting reading standards and gains of 7.5 points in math, the challengers now face an almost impossible task: Making the case that Bloomy deserves the boot. On top of lacking a strong messenger, Democrats are now finding that Mayor Bloomberg's successes are denying them even a message.
"The first rule of politics is to take away your opponents' ability to grow," said Hank Sheinkopf, a political consultant not involved in the race. "Bloomberg's effectively doing that."
The problem for the Dems is that all the important numbers favor the mayor, including polls showing him leading the pack. Key indicators of city health - unemployment and crime, in addition to test scores - have all gotten better on his watch. As those numbers go, so goes the election.
The unemployment rate in the city a year ago was 7.3%. Now it's 5.7% and has been as low as 5.2%. Wall Street and other employers have added 41,000 net jobs in the last 12 months and a Federal Reserve economist concluded that "the city is doing well."
The crime blotter is shrinking. Murders are down by 14.4% - 178 compared with 208, through May 22, according to the NYPD. Of the seven most serious crimes, only robbery is even with last year; everything else is down, for a total decline of 5.5%.
Indeed, crime has gone down every year under Bloomberg, continuing the incredible successes of the Giuliani years. Going back to 1993, crime is down an astonishing 70%.
"New York City is truly the safest large city in the United States," top cop Raymond Kelly was able to boast to the City Council. It's not bragging because he could back it up - FBI stats show that Gotham had the lowest crime rate among the nation's 25 largest cities for the first half of 2004.
Those are not the kind of numbers that get incumbents fired. For that to happen, there must be a general consensus that the city is on the wrong track in major areas.
Education seemed to have that potential - about 75% of public school parents are unhappy with schools, a recent poll found. But the test scores, unless someone proves that the tests were flawed, will likely rob the argument of its steam.
None of this is to say that Bloomberg, a Republican who mostly governs like a Democrat, is inherently unbeatable. At the start of the campaign, he seemed vulnerable. Many people regarded him as cold, they didn't like him and there was grumbling about everything from overdevelopment to taxes. And his West Side stadium plan gets a thumbs-up from only about one-in-three voters.
But none of the Democrats has been able to capitalize on the discontent. Fernando Ferrer, the best-known, has suffered self-inflicted wounds and the others have not been able to fill the void.
That failure periodically leads to speculation that another Dem will jump in and save the party from its fourth-straight City Hall loss, but that's fantasy. The truth is, Bloomberg is neither wildly popular nor wildly hated. That he doesn't inspire much emotion either way is working to his advantage because so many things are steadily, if quietly, moving forward.
Sheinkopf thinks the unresolved stadium issue still has the potential to put a big hurt on Bloomberg, even though he so far has been immunized against its unpopularity.
"It can only work as a class-based argument, where you paint him as the insider and try to prove he's distant from ordinary people," Sheinkopf said. "It's about the Manhattan billionaire doing a stadium instead of doing things for the outer boroughs, for blacks, Latinos and blue-collar whites."
That sounds like a desperate long shot because it is. But for the Dems, it might be the only shot they have left.
©Copyright WestSideStadium.org, 2004