The sudden prospect of Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner being elected to the top two citywide offices has set late-night comedians and political cartoonists atwitter, as it were. But to some businesspeople in the city, already nervous about what lies after the Bloomberg administration, it is nothing to joke about.
With Mr. Weiner leading the mayor's race, according to one poll, and another survey deeming Mr. Spitzer the favorite for city comptroller just days after he announced his candidacy, there is fear that New York will, as Partnership for New York CEO Kathryn Wylde has heard from executives, "become a national joke."
Their sex scandals—Mr. Weiner's tweeting of crotch shots and Mr. Spitzer's patronizing of prostitutes, which led to their resignations from Congress in 2011 and the governorship in 2008, respectively—are far from the only gripes. The prospect of two men with outsize egos and reputations as political wrecking balls running the city is perhaps an even greater concern.
"This is very serious business," one business leader said last week. "The mayor is a very serious thing. Comptroller is very serious. And they have a big impact on the economy and quality of life. So the question is, do either of these guys deserve to do that, or would they be good at it?"
Both Messrs. Weiner and Spitzer are hyping their credentials as independent from special interests—a strategy that worked for Mr. Bloomberg, albeit under vastly different circumstances, but that might be a liability if either is elected this fall. Their notoriety could overshadow their ability to recruit both -private- and public-sector talent to city agencies and the mayor's office, in Mr. Weiner's case, or asset managers and pension experts, in Mr. Spitzer's. Their relationships with Washington and Albany, respectively, are strained, to put it mildly, and Mr. Weiner's constraints in securing federal and state funding could prove even tougher than the many roadblocks encountered by Mr. Bloomberg.
"Neither one of these guys has any friends in the business they were in," said one business leader. "That's part of the reason they fell so hard, and it tells you something about how effective they would be as executives. They're great solo operators; they'd be lousy executives."
The question is, how much money will the corporate criminal class put up to try and kill off Spitzer's candidacy and will they extend a similar effort against Weiner?
I suspect they think they can control Weiner, especially since he seems to be particularly susceptible to largesse (he currently lives in a Park Avenue South apartment owned by a rich Clinton donor and his wife was making money as a "political consultant" while she was still working for the State Department) but independently wealthy Spitzer presents a bigger problem for them.
It will be interesting to see if these poll numbers hold up once TV ad season gets going.
Spitzer's going to get some blistering ads launched against him by both the corporate criminal class and the labor unions.
Weiner will be the target of some negative advertising too, though I bet not as much as Spitzer.
What will these poll numbers look like after a few weeks of ads?