As Weiner Shrinks, The Big Winner Is Generic Democrat Bill Thompson
But if the latest revelations about Weiner's lewd online activity end up derailing his candidacy, the biggest benefactor won't be Quinn, but an opponent with a lower profile: former city Comptroller Bill Thompson.
According to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, which was mostly conducted before the new scandal broke, Weiner leads the Democratic primary field, with Thompson and Quinn tying for second place and the other candidates far behind.
But in a potential subsequent runoff election, which is required when no primary candidate receives 40% of the vote, Thompson would beat either of his potential opponents. He leads Quinn by a 51-42 margin, and Weiner by 52-41.
"After the new flood of stories about Congressman Anthony Weiner, we must look at the likelihood of a runoff between Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former Comptroller William Thompson," said Quinnipiac polling director Maurice Carroll.
"As of today, these numbers show Thompson ahead in that race."
For Thompson, the key becomes finishing in one of the top-two slots in the primary. If Weiner does drop out of the race, as newspaper editorial boards and some candidates have demanded, Thompson would be well on his way.
In a twist, it actually benefits Quinn to have Weiner stay in the race and remain strong. Her clearest path to victory appears to be a runoff between her and Weiner — she led in that potential race, 46-44, and would probably poll even better against Weiner post-scandal.
That may be why Quinn, unlike some of her opponents, hasn't called on Weiner to exit the race.
Thompson was the Democratic nominee for mayor in 2009, and served as President of the New York City Board of Education before his time as Comptroller. Yet just half of likely Democratic primary voters told Quinnipiac that they knew "a great deal" or even "a good amount" about Thompson.
About three-quarters of likely voters said they knew at least that much about both Quinn and Weiner. The reason for Thompson's advantage is that, in many cases, voters haven't liked what they've seen.