The biggest question of the mayor’s race right now is, Who is going to be the first to drop out from being Michael Bloomberg’s sacrificial Democratic opponent? Neither City Comptroller William Thompson nor Representative Anthony Weiner wants to call it quits. As one campaign adviser puts it, “This is a huge blink-first routine”—but more and more it looks like Weiner may let Thompson have the floor. Few believe that the mayor, who enters the race with a fifteen-point lead over Thompson and Weiner, has a serious risk of losing his legalized third term.
The problem for Thompson, who is giving up a safe shot at a third term as comptroller, is that he could easily lose the primary to Weiner. The problem for Weiner is that even if he beats Thompson, he could turn off black voters in the general election. After he failed to make it out of the primaries in 2005, another defeat would effectively close the door on his mayoral dreams. “There’s only so many times you can run and lose,” says a city lawmaker sympathetic to Weiner.
Thompson’s strategy seems to be to force Weiner out before the contest even begins. “He’s convinced that Weiner will drop out,” says a friend of Thompson’s who spoke with him in recent days. Thompson’s advisers have noted Weiner’s uncharacteristic lassitude: “For a guy who’s pretty aggressive, he hasn’t been reaching out. It’s out of character.” Thompson, meanwhile, has signaled in several key conversations that he’s running.
To be sure, allies of Weiner are not counting him out. “Only eight people are paying attention to the mayor’s race,” says a source close to Weiner.
Ultimately, says Democratic City Council member Simcha Felder, “I see two anxious candidates vying for the possibility to get a job that doesn’t exist for them.” Felder, by the way, supports Bloomberg.