In the latest Quinnipiac poll, former congressman Weiner is ahead of New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, his biggest competition, by 25 to 22 percent in the race for mayor. And former governor Eliot Spitzer is beating Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer by 48 percent to 33 percent in the race for city comptroller. The fallen golden boys don't look quite so tainted now.
What Spitzer and Weiner have in common over their opponents is an early and aggressive marketing campaign via sex scandal. Being bad is good in New York, for better or for worse. People may know Weiner because of his sexually explicit-sexting scandal or Spitzer because of his dalliances with ladies of the night, but it's working for the two candidates. Other than those two, polled citizens were practically indifferent to every other choice. When pollsters were asked to pass a favorable or unfavorable opinion about the candidates, Weiner and Spitzer are the only two whose "haven't heard enough" scores came in under 20 percent. No one knows who the other guys are.
If you don't believe us, look at the data. Below, we've plotted two things: the percentage of people who've heard of a candidate (blue line, calculated by subtracting those who "haven't heard enough" from 100 percent) and the percentage of support each candidate gets in his or her race. In fact, the race itself really doesn't matter, comptroller or mayor; there is a strong correlation between awareness and voter support either way.
Politics is derided as being a popularity contest. That's only partly right.