The Washington Post

Eliot Spitzer is unpopular. But he could still win.

Eliot Spitzer isn't exactly Mr. Popularity, and that should come as no surprise. But believe it or not, he could still win his campaign for New York City comptroller.

Eliot Spitzer meets the press. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

A new Siena College poll released Monday is filled with discouraging news for Spitzer. Sixty-eight percent of New York State voters view Spitzer’s and Anthony Weiner's comeback bids as “embarrassing” for the state, while 16 percent say it’s no big deal, and 8 percent say they find it entertaining.

What's more, nearly six in 10 New York State voters view the disgraced former governor unfavorably, compared to just 33 percent who said they view him in a favorable light.

Spitzer's once-rising stock in the Democratic Party came crashing down in 2008 when he resigned over a prostitution scandal. These days, he is sporting a sullied image within his own party. A narrow majority of Democratic voters in the state (51 percent) hold an unfavorable view of Spitzer. Just 40 percent said they view him favorably.

It's important to keep in mind that the numbers are among New York State voters, not the more limited universe of New York City voters who will actually get to decide whether or not Spitzer's comeback attempt will be successful.

Still, it's not pretty.

Yet Spitzer has a fighting chance in his race against Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary. An early August New York Times/Siena poll found Spitzer up by nine. And a late July Quinnipiac University poll showed him with a slight lead over Stringer, 49 percent to 45 percent. A July NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll, meanwhile, showed Spitzer's favorable/unfavorable split among New York City Democrats was 46 percent/35 percent.

How is Spitzer hanging around? A couple of reasons stand out.

One is money. Spitzer has dug into his personal wealth to blanket the airwaves with campaign ads that seek to draw attention to voters, not him. Stringer simply cannot match him dollar for dollar. (For more details on the Spitzer-Stringer matchup, check out this thoroughly reported story from The Post's Jason Horowitz.)

The second is name recognition. As a former governor with a national profile, there are few voters who don't know who Spitzer is. People have to know who you are before they will be willing to vote for you. And Spitzer can cross that task off his to-do list.

The bottom line is that Sptizer has a chance of returning to elected office with about a month to go before he faces voters for the first-time since resigning in disgrace in 2008. That could change in the coming weeks, but for now at least, it's too early to count him out.

Updated at 7:39 p.m.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.



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