A new Marist College/WSJ poll in the mayor's race has some bad news for Republican Joe Lhota: Democrat Bill de Blasio is ahead of him, 65% to 22%. And after looking at more numbers in the poll, it's hard to find even a silver lining for Lhota without using an electron microscope. To wit:
Pollsters teach us to look at the "top number" in a survey. What does the leading candidate have? If that number is around 50% (which was the case with Eliot Spitzer when he held a big margin over Scott Stringer), the candidate who's in second chance still has a real chance, even if he or she is badly trailing in the poll. The top number here is quite high – 65%. That's a very tall hurdle for Lhota.
Although there's more than six weeks left in this race, voters have largely made up their minds already. Only 9% say they're undecided and only 13% say they might change their vote.
Because Democrats outnumber Republicans at a six-to-one ratio in New York City, Lhota must own his GOP base and score handily with the 750,000 non-affiliated voters to win. That's not happening. De Blasio is winning the support of 25% of Republicans and 50% of non-enrolled voters. Meanwhile, there are 2.97 million Democrats and – according to the poll – de Blasio has the support of 77% of them.
Even when looking at Lhota's "Republican cloth coat" issues, de Blasio is winning. A whopping 56% think de Blasio would better lead the city during a crisis while 55% percent say he'd do more than Lhota to keep businesses in the city. Even 44% percent say de Blasio would do a better job at keeping crime down to Lhota's 35%.
All of these tough numbers mean that for Lhota to win, he may need "something to happen" -- that "something" could be a major crisis or disaster rocking the city or someone launching a massive independent expenditure effort on his behalf.
Since Lhota can't bank on either one of those things happening , he's going to need to put in a lot of work if he wants to make a dent in de Blasio's big lead. That's why it's puzzling that Lhota today only has one public campaign event – at a subway stop on the Upper East Side, where he's greeting morning commuters. De Blasio has no campaign events today at all. But if you're the Democrats, you'd be very happy just to run out the clock at this point. I can't imagine that Lhota is so happy right now -- as time may already be running out on his campaign.
*Note: After I filed this column, an endorsement event by Teamsters Joint Council 16 was added to de Blasio’s Wednesday schedule.