One day before Primary Day in New York City, two new polls suggest that the big question is whether front-runner Bill de Blasio will avoid a runoff in the race for the Democratic mayoral nomination.
And the surveys, from Quinnipiac University and NBC4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist, indicate a close contest between former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in the race for city comptroller.
According to the Quinnipiac poll, 39% of likely Democratic primary voters say they back de Blasio, the city's public advocate, who has surged in polling the past two months. And he stands at 36% support in the NBC4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist survey. If no one tops 40% of the vote Tuesday's primary, the top two finishers face off in a runoff.
Former City Comptroller William Thompson stands at 25%, with 18% for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the one-time front-runner among the Democrats, with 6% for former Rep. Anthony Weiner. The former congressman, who stepped down from his seat in 2011 after a controversy over sending lewd texts, jumped in public opinion polls after entering the race in the spring. But he plummeted in the surveys after admitting at a news conference in July that he had continued sexting after he had resigned from Congress.
In an interview on NBC's "Today Show" on Monday, Weiner said that his chances going into the primary are good, despite the latest polls.
The remaining candidates in the survey registered in the lower single digits, with 8% undecided.
"Remember that there are no undecided voters on Election Day. If de Blasio picks up just a few of those undecided voters, he's over the top," Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said. "In our last few days of polling, however, we're seeing the movement to 2009 Democratic nominee William Thompson."
Thompson is the only major African-American candidate in the race for the Democratic mayoral nomination.
"There's been no movement by Speaker Christine Quinn as she could be out of the running. This is a vote where tiny changes on the final day really could make a difference. Will de Blasio avoid a runoff or will we have a Battle of the Bills? Flip a coin," Carroll added.
Thompson and Quinn each stand at 20% in the NBC4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist survey, with Weiner at 7% and everyone else in the lower single digits and 8% undecided.
"Bill de Blasio is within striking distance of avoiding a runoff, but he still has some ground to cover to pull this off. If there is a runoff, de Blasio starts as the early favorite, " Lee M. Miringoff, Director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said.
Race flared as a factor in the Democratic mayoral nomination battle this weekend when New York's current mayor, three-term independent Michael Bloomberg, called de Blasio's campaign "racist."
"He's making an appeal using his family to gain support," Bloomberg said in an interview for the upcoming issue of New York magazine. "I think it's pretty obvious to anyone watching what he's been doing."
De Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, is African-American and she and the couple's 16-year-old son Dante have been ubiquitous presences on the campaign trail, even appearing in a direct-to-camera television ad in support of his father's campaign.
While Bloomberg insisted he doesn't think de Blasio himself is racist, he said the candidate is using divisive politics to punch his ticket to the city's highest office.
"It's comparable to me pointing out I'm Jewish in attracting the Jewish vote. You tailor messages to your audiences and address issues you think your audience cares about," Bloomberg said.
Black voters are expected to comprise nearly 30% of the primary electorate.
Flanked by his wife and 18-year-old daughter, Chiara, de Blasio responded to Bloomberg's comments at a Saturday afternoon get-out-the-vote rally in Brooklyn, dismissing them as "very unfortunate and inappropriate." De Blasio said he hoped Bloomberg would "reconsider what he said."
In the race for comptroller, Stringer stands at 50% and Spitzer at 43%, with 7% undecided.
"Borough President Scott Stringer has the momentum as he overcomes a huge publicity blitz by former Governor Eliot Spitzer. He's not home free, but he looks to be on the plus side of the racial split with a big white vote offsetting the almost as big black vote for Spitzer," Carroll said.
In the NBC4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist survey, Spitzer stands at 47% and Stringer at 45%, with 7% undecided.
"Stringer has closed a once double-digit lead by Spitzer to make this a tossup," said Miringoff.
Spitzer, who resigned as New York governor in 2008 after revelations he spent thousands of dollars on prostitutes, jumped into the race for New York City comptroller in July and quickly surged in polling.
The winners in Tuesday's primaries will face off in November's general election.
The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted September 6-8, with 782 likely New York City Democratic primary voters questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.