Earlier this year, Daily News Editorial Page Arthur Browne appeared on "The Road to City Hall" and complained about the lack of a real discussion of issues in the race for mayor. At the time, I agreed with him. Everything seemed poll driven and sterile; the candidates were largely avoiding controversy and it seemed that the rest of the field was only trying to puncture the "inevitability" of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn becoming the next mayor.
But fast forward through the summer and guess what? We learned a lot about the candidates through the many panels, forums, and debates that have been held across the city in this campaign season. From their affordable housing plans to their vision of the city's economy to how they want to run the NYPD, every candidate for mayor now has a long paper trail on virtually every major issue confronting the city.
After hearing them talk for the last nine months or more, I think the substantive differences between the Democratic candidates are highly nuanced; it's like differentiating between shades of gray on a cloudy day. Like most elections, today's primary may come down to what George H.W. Bush once called "The Vision Thing". And that's why Bill de Blasio's campaign has been doing so well over he last month. His message is pretty simple: "You want change and are tired of Bloomberg? Vote for me." It's an easy argument to make in a 30-second commercial and in a debate. The case for Quinn is more complicated and more difficult to explain: "I'm a proven leader who sometimes agreed with the mayor. Sometimes I didn't." Quinn is learning that hot usually beats lukewarm with primary voters.
There's a real chance that Quinn or Bill Thompson will have an opportunity to reboot their campaign during a three-week runup to a runoff and it will be fascinating to see political alliances broken and remade as a "Stop de Blasio" coalition is already being forged. But there's also a real chance that de Blasio could win things outright – a stunning development that was unthinkable only a month ago.
One final note: if we take polls with a grain of salt, let's take early polls with a box of salt. Here are the Quinnipiac numbers from May 22nd: Quinn, 25%; Weiner, 15%; Thompson, 10%; de Blasio, 10%; Liu, 6%.