There were a lot of reasons to believe that this would be the year for Mr. Thompson. He was the Democratic nominee in 2009, when he stunned many by coming within five percentage points of unseating Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, despite being outspent by more than $100 million. He is the only African-American candidate in a city where whites are a minority. And, in a primary field of Democrats that many have deemed underwhelming, he has won praise for his even-tempered, deliberative approach to vexing issues.
But Mr. Thompson has repeatedly been eclipsed by his flashier Democratic rivals, who are all younger, and louder, than he is.
Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, led the race for much of the year, until former Representative Anthony D. Weiner briefly rode notoriety into the field’s top tier. This week, it is Bill de Blasio, the public advocate, who has commanded the attention, vaulting into first place in one poll and a tie in another, and once again relegating Mr. Thompson to third in both.
And throughout the year, pollsters have been noticing a startling reality: Even though this year is the fourth time Mr. Thompson has appeared on a citywide ballot, nearly half of New York voters in a Quinnipiac Poll taken last month said they still did not know enough about him to form an opinion.
That nearly half of New York voters surveyed in the Quinnipiac poll do not know enough about Thompson to form an opinion about him tells you a lot about Thompson as a candidate and as a person.
He is faceless, he does not stand out in a crowd because he does not stand for anything other than his own career advancement, and he is not registering with voters because there is nothing about him or his candidacy that is distinctive.
He is a middle of the road candidate, looking to appeal to the establishment (thus Merryl Tisch as his campaign co-chair and Al D'amato as his chief bundler), looking to assuage the power brokers worried about life in the city post-Bloomberg.
That has been his strategy and clearly, it isn't working so well yet.
That's why he has been changing some policy stances, like on stop-and-frisk, which he used to be for before he changed his mind and opposed after seeing numerous polls showing him lagging in black community support.
The other candidates all have distinctive themes - Liu, the underdog the establishment hates; de Blasio, the outerborough liberal; Quinn, the consummate insider who knows how to get things done; Weiner, the sexter.
What is Thompson's campaign theme?
Vote for me, I almost won in 2009?
I'm not willing to write Thompson off yet, but when you see numbers like the Quinnipiac ones where almost half the voters STILL don't know who the hell Thompson is in mid-August, you have to start wondering if he has enough juice to break through in the next few weeks.
No wonder the first ads the Thompson campaign went up with were the ones reintroducing the candidate to the voters.
But maybe they should have said "introducing" the candidate to voters, because reintroducing him assumes people already know him.
And as we can see from the polls, about half the city does not.