Forget about the polls – the other Democratic candidates in the mayor's race – and the media – think Bill de Blasio is the frontrunner.
After last night's wild debate at Town Hall, it's clear that the dynamics in this topsy-turvy campaign have shifted yet again. With his voice quavering at times, De Blasio steadfastly bore the brunt of the attacks in the 90-minute showdown, with Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson often ganging up on him, saying he had flip flopped on key issues and also accomplished little as the city's Public Advocate. Following the fight in front of a pumped-up audience, de Blasio was surrounded by political reporters while his rivals had to wait their turn in line to be interviewed.
But debates aren't always a zero-sum game; it was a solid night for the three candidates – all of whom delivered better performances than they did last week in which Thompson seemed under-caffeinated while Quinn and de Blasio were jittery and overscripted.
Amazingly, Anthony Weiner was almost an afterthought while John Liu had a strong night, especially in his attacks against de Blasio. But it seems unlikely that Weiner can recover from the return of his sexting scandal while Liu may be financially crippled in a race where his top rivals will be able to vastly outspend him.
So what will the final weeks in the campaign bring? Championing tax hikes on the rich, de Blasio has seized the mantle of old Democratic liberalism in the race while both Quinn and Thompson have moved to the middle. Quinn is counting on people wanting an experienced lawmaker in City Hall while Thompson is banking on African-American support. Very quickly, De Blasio has catapulted his way to the top of the race and is in the middle of a tough fight. Expect more tag teams as this wrestling match heads to Sept. 10th.