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Why New York mayor's race could be big deal for American liberalism

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Long-time front-runner Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker and frequent ally of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is languishing at 21 percent, a statistical dead heat with former Comptroller Bill Thompson, who narrowly lost to Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the 2009 general election. (Mr. Bloomberg cannot run for a fourth term because of term limits.)

Even in a runoff, however, the Quinnipiac poll shows de Blasio easily beating Ms. Quinn, 59 percent to 30 percent, and Mr. Thompson, 52 percent to 36 percent.

There are larger implications for de Blasio’s sudden surge. As the most left-leaning of the top three candidates, he could not only become the first Democrat to lead New York in 20 years, but also help reinvigorate American liberalism by providing liberals with a high-profile office.

“Absolutely, it will provide a prominent bully pulpit to somebody who articulates well the ideas of the progressive wing of the Democrats,” says Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College in New York. “He was a skilled political operative before he ran for office himself, and I don’t think he is going to shy away from that platform, if he gets to it.”

De Blasio, the campaign manager for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s successful Senate run in 2000, has called for a tax increase on New Yorkers earning $500,000 or more. He would redistribute this wealth to fund universal pre-kindergarten services, as well as fully-funded after-school programs for all middle-schoolers. He also wants to shore up struggling city hospitals with increased state funding and provide financial support for immigrants trying to start or grow a small business.

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