When former congressman-turned-mayoral front-runner Anthony Weiner acknowledged during a press conference on Tuesday that his sexting scandal had lasted longer than voters had previously been led to believe, one thing was clear: His campaign for mayor was officially in trouble.
What was less clear is exactly who would benefit from his campaign's implosion besides the comedians and tabloids reveling in making sexually suggestive jokes at his expense.
But a new poll seems to indicate that there is one political beneficiary of Weiner's second fall from grace, and that beneficiary may surprise many. A Quinnipiac University poll out late Wednesday found Bill Thompson, the first African-American comptroller in New York City history and current candidate for mayor, to be the likely winner of a Democratic runoff. In New York City primaries, the two top vote-getters compete in a runoff if no candidate earns 40 percent of the vote.
Though Weiner has enjoyed a small lead lately, at the moment the five candidates battling for the Democratic nomination – Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, current Comptroller John Liu, former Comptroller Thompson and former Rep. Weiner – are all within a few points of one another, making a runoff extremely likely.
The Quinnipiac poll found that although Weiner still enjoys a small lead, in a runoff he would be beaten by Thompson, as would the former front-runner, Quinn, making Thompson the likely Democratic nominee with a little over a month left until primary day.
Thompson's impressive showing in this latest poll is significant. In 2009 he came within a hair of depriving current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg of a third term. Despite being outspent by Bloomberg 10-to-1, and despite lacking strong support from the national Democratic Party (including the Democratic National Committee and President Obama, who was hesitant to campaign for Thompson's long shot bid), Thompson lost to Bloomberg by less than 5 percent of the vote. Yet Thompson has not generated the headlines or attention that some of his fellow candidates have, most notably Weiner, whose scandals have made him an object of fascination and ridicule, and Quinn, whose candidacy would be historic. She would be the first female and openly gay mayor in the city's history.
But while media fixated on which candidates have the best story, voters appear to be more focused on other criteria. Thompson has not dominated in fundraising, but he has racked up some impressive endorsements, including the powerful United Federation of Teachers union, as well as a lengthy list of Latino elected officials, a sign that Thompson hopes to replicate the black and brown coalition that helped put the city's first black mayor, David Dinkins, in office.
It is worth noting that the Quinnipiac poll began July 18, but respondents were contacted until Tuesday night, meaning that some of them were polled after this latest news related to Weiner's scandal became public. This means it is likely that Weiner's poll numbers will be even lower in future polls, since any new survey conducted will likely consist of an entire sample of voters who all know the latest gory details of Weinergate. That won't bode well for Weiner, but it looks as if it may bode well for the man who could become New York City;s second black mayor.
(Keli Goff is The Root's special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.)