Poll: Christine Quinn Is a Terrible Front-Runner

Matt Berman

The plodding front-runner candidacy of New York City's Christine Quinn may be losing its "front-runner" tag. And the guy who left Congress under a cloud of scandal and phallic puns is to blame. 

A poll released in full Wednesday morning from Wall Street Journal/NBC 4 New York/Marist shows former Rep. Anthony Weiner leading New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in the race for mayor for the first time, 25 percent to 20 percent among registered Democrats polled. It's the first time this year that a primary poll has showed anyone leading aside from Quinn, and it comes with the lowest support for her since polling began. And it's a near sweep: Weiner leads Quinn among men, women, black voters, Latinos, Asians, and voters in every borough but Manhattan. Quinn still holds a 25-19 percent lead over Weiner among white voters.

And in more bad news for Quinn, only 34 percent of her supporters say they are firmly committed, compared with 45 percent of Weiner's. And while Weiner still has higher negatives, Quinn's have shot up from 17 percent of voters in February to 29 percent now. Quinn's support since February has consistently declined, while Weiner's support since April (when polling for him began) has consistently risen.

In New York City, a two-person runoff is triggered if no candidate takes 40 percent of the vote. In that now-likely circumstance, Quinn still leads Weiner, but it's well within the margin of error: 44 percent to 42 percent, a big change from her lead a month ago of 48-33. Fewer than one in five Democrats are still undecided. The poll has an overall margin of error of 2.9 percent and 3.7 percent for registered Democrats.

This isn't the first time that the seemingly inevitable Quinn mayoralty looked shaky. Back in January, The New York Timesreported that Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Quinn's biggest supposed backer, was dreaming about other potential successors. The list from The Times was bizarre, including former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and media mogul Mort Zuckerman. But what the story did show was a serious queasiness about Quinn from the man she had tied her fate to after helping to secure his unprecedented third mayoral term. Quinn, for her part, called The Times' report "silliness."

Bloomberg hasn't yet made an endorsement in the race, but has been helping Quinn gain some traction through his office in other ways.

And while it's by no means a scientific measure, the extreme lack of sales for Quinn's new memoir doesn't bolster the idea that there's much enthusiasm and excitement surrounding her candidacy.

A Quinn loss, however, would still be pretty surprising. As Micah Cohen wrote for FiveThirtyEight, the winner of five of the last six Democratic primaries for New York mayor was the early front-runner and polling leader. Quinn has, until now, led in every primary poll this year. Oddly enough, the one exception came in 2009, when Anthony Weiner led in early polling before dropping out of the race. All the same, the precedent holds that Quinn has the advantage, even if it winds up coming to a runoff.