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Monday, April 29, 2013

Missing From Joe Lhota's Strategy Memo: The 1989 Dinkins/Giuliani Race

Much has been written today about the Joe Lhota campaign's strategic memo that sought to pave his path to victory. 

"The Lhota analysis ignores the run-off.. If she wins run-off she will by definition of gotten the support, ultimately, of more than half the Democrats voting in it. The analysis also doesn't account for the possibility of Quinn not winning the nomination. de Blasio has said he will support the Democratic nominee, if it's not him. And it's not clear how much of an impact Carrion will have on the Independence Party line in November. The Lhota analysis also compares him to Bloomberg without mentioning Bloomberg's wealth," writes Azi Paybarah.

Ross Barkan also weighed in with his thoughts in questioning the merits of the memo.

But here is what the Lhota Campaign forgot to mention or compare with, and it may be a little too complex, but notable.

The last time a Republican lost the mayoral race in NYC was Rudy Giuliani in 1989, who lost a close race to David Dinkins by only 3 points (51-48). At the time, it was a 4-way race where the right to life and conservative candidate, both a base of votes for the Republican nominee, garnered 27,181 votes. 

As the NY Times described the outcome: "Mr. Giuliani managed to lure only one in four Democrats to the Republican or Liberal lines, far fewer than he needed to deny Mr. Dinkins the prize that he had set out to capture last Valentine's Day. But he kept Mr. Dinkins's victory margin to about 3 percentage points - one of the narrowest in a New York City mayoral race in this century and considerably closer than pre-election polls had suggested." 

As a matter of fact, the last polls made public the day before the mayoral election gave Dinkins leads of 14 percentage points (by The Daily News with WABC-TV) to 18 points (by The New York Observer). His actual margin of victory over  Giuliani was less than 3 percentage points. 

 According to the New York Newsday/WNBC-TV exit poll, Dinkins won 97 percent of the black vote, 70 percent of the Hispanic vote, 74 percent of voters who called themselves liberal, and 55 percent of female voters (males split 49-49). 

On the other hand, Giuliani won 66 percent of the white vote and 73 percent of the white Catholic vote. He also defeated Dinkins 60 percent to 39 percent among Jewish voters, and received support from more than half of the voters at least 50 years old. 

 Andrew Kohut of the Gallup Corporation, whose pre-election surveys for Newsday gave Mr. Dinkins a lead of 51 percent to 36 percent over Mr. Giuliani, told the NY Times he split the undecided voters evenly among the two candidates. 'We would have had a dead-perfect number if we'd given all the undecideds to Giuliani,'' he said. 

Then like now, Mr Dinkins was the first black elected as mayor, just as Ms. Quinn might become the first woman to serve as mayor. Mr. Giuliani was challenged by the right, who grabbed him away 27,000 valuable votes that could of narrowed Mr. Dinkins lead to 20,000.

Yes, Mr. Giuliani lost the race, but that was a race that the Republican had no chance. And the Democrat, who just defeated Ed Koch in the primaries, got almost all of the Black and Latino vote.

Considering Christine Quinn wins the Democratic nomination, and that Adolfo Carrion remains as the only Hispanic Independent candidate in the race, Joe Lhota, if he manages to best John Catsimatidis would have a chance to match Giuliani's numbers among white Catholics and Jewish voters, while Mr. Carrion would split the Latino vote with Ms. Quinn. 

Of course, there is no indication that 2013 would match the 1989 outcome, but that is the only time over the past 25 year that a Republican lost the mayoral race to a Democrat, and it was very close. Not to mention Mr. Giuliani outperforming the polls and erasing a 15 point lead in a single day.

If Weiner wins the democratic nomination, The argument gets even easier. Obviously, Mr. Lhota would then have a better chance of besting him in November.

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