Bill Thompson is the guy to beat in the Race for Mayor

In New York Politics, it’s never too early to talk about the Race for Mayor.

The last contest was only five months ago, but that’s not stopping us from looking ahead to 2013.

A recent Marist Poll, with its excellent director of polling Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, had some very interesting numbers.

I was shocked to see despite the very strong finish of former City Comptroller Bill Thompson to Mayor Bloomberg, and another way to state this, Thompson’s much closer than expected loss—that Thompson in the Marist Poll is actually trailing Congressman Anthony Weiner.

As expected this far out the largest number goes not to any one candidate, but to undecided. More than a quarter of New York City Democrats — 27% — haven’t taken a stand on the race.

How could Thompson not be the clear front runner?

He took on the mayor’s millions, took on the first African American President—a fellow Democrat in the White House who played footsies with Bloomberg, and Thompson took on the power of incumbency and still almost won. I will never forget I would also tell Thompson over private dinners that frankly, he was out of his mind to take on Bloomberg. My advice, as was the advice from many people was to sit out the race like Weiner did, have four more years in his job as Comptroller-and then run for mayor.

The soft spoken Thompson in those private sessions would always say with confidence in his voice, “but I’m telling you, I can beat Bloomberg.”

I’ll give Weiner this much. I have moderated debates with Weiner and live audiences. The congressman is quick on his feet with the one-liners of protecting the middle class that go over very well with the crowds— Weiner’s message resonates, but it’s puzzling to see Thompson trailing Weiner when Thompson is the one who put in the hard work in the last race.

Thompson is the man to beat in 2013. Remember this observation. Rudy Giuliani in his first run for mayor barely lost to David Dinkins, but then what happened four years later, Giuliani ran again, and this time he won. That same scenario is set up for Thompson. He lost his first run for mayor and then, there is a strong possibility he comes back to win the big prize when Bloomberg is gone. This is how many candidates are elected to the City Council. They run, establish a name for themselves by losing and then eventually they win.

Granted, the council is not the mayor’s race.

There is a reason why Thompson’s name was floated for a host of seats opening this year, including state comptroller, lieutenant governor and Senate. The guy proved he’s formidable.  That’s not a guaranteed win, but Thompson via the mayor’s race proved he’s a forced to be reckoned with. He went from what was expected to be Bloomberg’s punching bag to an inch from becoming mayor.

In the Marist Poll:

-18% of registered Democrats would support Congressman Anthony Weiner.

-Former Comptroller Bill Thompson follows closely behind with 15% of the vote.

-City Council Speaker Christine Quinn receives the support of 12%.

-Then there are the new folks—the names to keep an eye on. 10% of the city’s

Democrats report they would back Public Advocate Bill de Blasio & Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. Comptroller John Liu each garners 9% of the vote.

Between now and 2013 is a long, long time in politics. Thompson could stumble over the next four years when reporters go to him for reaction on Bloomberg’s initiatives. Thompson by the way, who recently accepted a job as the chief administrative officer and senior managing director of Siebert Brandford Shank and Co. LLC (a municipal underwriting firm)

Weiner be continue to be natural for the camera and could shine more than ever. But he too, could stumble. Who knows, in a primary Thompson and Weiner could destroy each other permitting someone else to win.

Plus, whenever there is a candidate of color, the routine playbook goes out the window. Though in the mayor’s race and to their credit, Thompson and Bloomberg avoided race.

Don’t sleep on Bill De Blasio nor John Liu.

In De Blasio’s case, you don’t just go from being Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager to wanting to serve in the city council. De Blasio started off slow with the big prize in mind.

John Liu has quietly built such an African American base that it could actually propel him into mayor’s chair. There’s also Police Commissioner Ray Kelly who may decide to run. Kelly has at times had higher popularity with New Yorkers than his boss-Mayor Bloomberg.

But for now in the race for Mayor, Bill Thompson is the man to beat.