For Mike the mayor and Chris the speaker, the fix is in, the die cast, the deal cemented. They are manacled together in municipal history without a key and, like Jackie Gleason and Art Carney, in a famous comic scene, they cannot "boomf" their way out of the handcuffs.
On New York City's political stage, nothing that might come between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) could change the enormous favor these two politicians did each other four years ago to alter the rules of the game for their mutual benefit.
The 5-year-old, still-salient fact buried under a mounting pile of daily campaign updates is that Quinn and Bloomberg hold municipal office right now because they changed the term-limit law in 2008 to make themselves eligible for an additional four-year term.
Together, you could say, they negotiated this year's electoral landscape in advance.
Now we're hearing about Bloomberg's purported soundings for a successor from outside the current crop of candidates. This brings a lot of risk-free, and substance-free, name-dropping of fantasy candidates including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.
But even after Quinn faces questions about Bloomberg "turning away" from her, and even as she criticizes Bloomberg for offhandedly equating, post-Newtown, the United Federation of Teachers with the National Rifle Association, these two will still have each other to thank for their extended stays.
During his first two terms, Bloomberg denounced the prospect of changing the two-term limit because, he said, the people had spoken twice in the 1990s in referenda on the issue. Such a change would be a "disgrace," he said. Then he proceeded to lobby for it, with no referendum. He needed Quinn and a Council majority to do it.
Meanwhile, just a glance at the low moments of the third mayoral term born of this deal could help the pack of rival candidates of either major party dissipate public fears about losing the incumbent.
Recall: The Sanitation Department's widely panned response to the December 2010 blizzard; a schools chancellor with no education experience who lasted three months; a boondoggled payroll system contract that spawned federal corruption cases; and police tactics that just Tuesday led a federal judge to rule the NYPD "systematically" trespassed on constitutional limits when making trespass stops.
Bloomberg aside, the seasoned and well-funded Quinn has a drive and presence of her own at City Hall that make her a top contender. For starters, she could become the city's first female mayor, which her supporters see as a major and relevant selling point in an otherwise all-male field of candidates thus far.
One city-based political consultant, who isn't working for a mayoral candidate and declined to be identified, said: "She can share credit as a full partner in all the successes of the last eight years while keeping herself away from Bloomberg's personality issues. He can be so tone-deaf, but she comes off in a place like the Rockaways as populistic. As the first openly gay speaker, she has support in the LGBT community. She has access to the business community, to raise funds, as someone they can do business with."
Josh Isay, spokesman for the Quinn campaign, said "voters in New York want results" -- and while the mayor and speaker have negotiated agreements on seven budgets, they also had policy differences.