Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has been talking to political consultants who have laid out a road map for a potential mayoral candidacy, according to a consultant who has met with him.
The consultant did an analysis of the mayor’s race over the last three months and shared parts of it with me. The written analysis lays out perceived vulnerabilities of the leading Democratic candidates—City Comptroller Bill Thompson, Representative Anthony Weiner and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn—and concludes that Klein’s entry could create a situation in which Thompson wins the initial vote, but with less than 40 percent of the vote he’d need to avoid a run-off.
Klein, the scenario goes, would be the second candidate in the runoff.
At first glance, it must be said, the whole thing seems a bit far-fetched.
For starters, it’s entirely possible that Michael Bloomberg will get into the 2009 race—and he’s Klein’s boss. If that happens, this is all moot.
But even if Bloomberg steps aside on schedule, it will take some serious doing to get the public to see Klein as a potential Bloomberg successor, rather than a deputy. A transformative experience would be required, and those usually need to happen before a campaign, not because of one.
The analysis doesn’t account for any of these obstacles, and it also seems to take an overly dismissive view of at least two-thirds of the likely Democratic field: according to a report, Weiner has almost no appeal outside his district and his strong showing in 2005 was a fluke of circumstances; also, Quinn’s candidacy is dead and buried by a Council spending scandal.
The one thing candidate Klein (like any additional entrant) would have going for him is the fact that there’s no clear front-runner.
On Quinn, the analysis says, "Speakers have traditionally been weak mayoral candidates. They mistake citywide influence with citywide appeal," referring to the failed mayoral campaigns of her two predecessors, Peter Vallone Sr. and Gifford Miller.
In the document, Weiner is described as weak because of his performance in the 2005 mayoral race, during which he narrowly missed forcing a run-off with Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer. According to the analysis, Weiner was the "’Gutsy Ideas’ candidate in 2005, however this did not translate to widespread support among White Liberals. He received 139,000 votes, a number that marginally exceeds his congressional base," the analysis says. It goes on to say that "because of his district, he has taken consistently anti-Manhattan stances such as opposing Congestion Pricing."
The analysis refers to Thompson as a "[l]ackluster campaigner, [who] seems disinterested." It also says that he has benefited from actively fund-raising while in office.
Out of 768,000 Democrats expected to vote in the primary, the analysis figures Thompson would garner about 285,250 votes, including 168,000 from African-Americans voters. Klein, according to this analysis, could get as many as 260,000 votes, with the largest bloc—113,750—coming from the "White Liberal" voters. Klein’s second largest voting bloc would come from Hispanic voters, 52,000; he is also projected to get 42,900 from "White Ethnic" voters, which is thought to be the strongest base for Weiner.
When asked about Klein’s interest in a mayoral race, his spokesman David Cantor e-mailed to say, "He’s not running for mayor. He loves his job and wants to stay in it."
Mark Guma, a consultant for Quinn, offered this sarcastic response to the analysis: "The psychic we consult has Christine winning the primary by 1,187 votes, so we feel pretty confident."
Hank Sheinkopf, a consultant who worked on two of Thompson’s campaigns and may do so next year, dismissed the analysis as "a nice fantasy."
"They’re going to balance Klein’s record on schools, when he was chancellor and had all the power, versus Bill Thompson’s record on schools when he was president of the Board of Education, and had no power," he said.
"Is it likely that Klein runs? No," Sheinkopf added. "Can he raise the money? Probably. Does he have a base? No."
A spokesman for Weiner declined to comment.