In a 14-hour series of events yesterday, Comptroller John Liu formalized his mayoral candidacy as he traversed the city’s five boroughs. Throughout the early part of the day, Mr. Liu showed impressive energy, speed-walking, jogging, and–at one point, at least–literally sprinting from location to location with a band of reporters struggling to catch up. But some of the most memorable moments on the campaign trail came in the evening when Mr. Liu boarded the back of the press van and, munching on donuts, fielded a barrage of questions until the inquiries simply ran out. Notably, Mr. Liu dismissed politicos and pundits who categorize him as a City Hall long-shot due to the ongoing federal investigation into his fundraising.
“I wouldn’t be running–it’s way too much time and money to throw down the drain–if there was not a clear shot to victory,” Mr. Liu told Politicker. “I think we have a very clear path to victory. In the coming months, I’m sure you political geniuses will decide for it for yourselves. I don’t quite feel like mapping it out right now.”
Despite declining to elaborate, Mr. Liu ended up discussing some aspects of his viability, from his unexpectedly strong war chest to what he feels is his uniquely passionate base of supporters. Mr. Liu, who would be New York City’s first Asian-American mayor, said that history-making appeal will drive the community to the polls, while one of his top Democratic rivals, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, would not share the same excitement among African-Americans.
“The Asian community is no different from any other community,” he contended. “The first time around there’s a credible candidate, it’s the first time. In … Thompson’s case–it’s not the first time. The governor’s been African-American, the president is African-American. So it’s not as big of a deal as it is the Asian community. … When David Dinkins ran [for mayor], there’s a huge amount of excitement. I don’t think that’s going to be that different with the Asian community this time around.”
Mr. Liu also claimed that the polls–which continue to put him in fourth place–are missing Asian voters and thus undercounting critical elements of the electorate.
“I’m sure you guys all thought about it, you just never wrote about it, right?” he asked the group. “Look, if you want to talk about voters who are undercounted or absent from the count, you understand pollsters are people–live people–on the end of the phone asking questions. But they have to have a phone number to ask a question. …. You look at voter lists, generally speaking, the people who have phone numbers on them are senior citizens who registered to vote a long time ago. Nowadays, people don’t like to list their phone numbers. You also think, ‘Do the people who are making those phone calls know how to ask questions in Chinese? Or Bengali? Or Korean? Or Urdu?’ I don’t know for a fact, my guess is no.”
And for the Asian respondents who did answer the pollsters’ questions, Mr. Liu cast doubt on whether his support was being accurately measured in the first place.
“Think about how they’re doing the polls, that’s all I can say,” he said. “That one poll that actually did show [Asian cross-tabulations], I think it said I had 10 or 15 percent support from Asian-American voters? You can interpret that the way you want.”
We asked Mr. Liu how he felt about his overall status in the race–if he felt cautiously optimistic, for example–and the comptroller expressed confidence that he’ll be the city’s next mayor come January 1st, 2014.
“I’m very optimistic! I’m not cautiously optimistic,” he answered. “‘Cautiously optimistic’ is an answer you get from somebody who really doesn’t want to answer the question.”