NEW YORK – The four Democrats vying for the chance to face Mayor Michael Bloomberg (search) in November spent their final hours before Tuesday's primary shaking hands at subway stations and senior centers, hoping to make an impression that will translate into votes.
It has been an exhausting journey. Throughout the campaign, they have had to contend with Bloomberg's swelling approval rates, and his bottomless supply of cash — the billionaire is spending his own money to get re-elected.
And recently, just getting anyone's attention is hard enough. Most New York City voters don't start tuning in to primary campaigns until after Labor Day, but this year, coverage of Hurricane Katrina squeezed stories about the race off front pages and gave them less time on news broadcasts.
The final weekend before the primary — traditionally prime stumping time — also happened to be the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Not only did it steal more headlines, but the candidates had to tread carefully, not wanting to appear insensitive by turning it into a political event.
Gifford Miller, Anthony Weiner and C. Virginia Fields attended memorial remembrances, but Fernando Ferrer had lunch and a photo-op with the Rev. Al Sharpton (search), who has endorsed him.
A poll by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute released Monday found Anthony Weiner in second place with 25 percent to Ferrer, who has 32 percent. Thirteen percent of likely Democratic voters in the survey were undecided. The winner needs 40 percent to avoid a runoff in two weeks.
"After the pundits, the pollsters, the press ... it is appropriately in the hands of the people, so let them decide," Ferrer said on a radio program Monday.
The candidates mostly avoided attacking each other throughout the campaign, and stuck to that even on Monday.
Ferrer "and I have different perspectives on this race, but we're going to come together at the end of this primary and we're going to be unified," Weiner said.
Winning on Tuesday is just a warmup to a difficult battle on Nov. 8. Recent polls consistently find that a majority of New Yorkers believe Bloomberg will win a second term, and he has been aggressively wooing Democrats onto his side.
The former CEO was a lifelong Democrat until he switched parties in 2001 to avoid a crowded Democratic ticket. He supports abortion rights and has collected endorsements from historically Democratic groups like District Council 37, the city's largest labor union which represents 121,000 workers at a variety of city agencies.
Bloomberg on Monday wished the candidates luck, and said he was looking forward to the general election.
"We're going to have to work very hard, I think we have a good message to get out," he said at a news conference where he released his annual report card, which was a mostly-positive review. His campaign also announced plans for a primary night party — an unusual move for a candidate who is not competing in that day's contest.
The Quinnipiac poll surveyed 717 likely Democratic primary voters from Sept. 6 to Sept. 11, and has a plus or minus 3.7 percent margin of error.