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Poll: Gap widening for Bloomberg foe Thompson

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, and

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, and his challenger, city comptroller William Thompson Jr., participate in the first debate for their 2009 mayoral campaign in Manhattan. (Oct. 13, 2009) Credit: AP

NEW YORK - NEW YORK (AP) — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Democratic challenger has lost ground, a new poll shows, despite increasing his television ads and the force with which he's attacking the popular billionaire mayor.

The survey by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, released Thursday, found that William Thompson Jr. is 16 points behind Bloomberg, with 36 percent of likely voters saying they favor him compared with the mayor's 52 percent, with less than two weeks until Election Day.

The last Marist poll, released Sept. 21, had Thompson behind by 9 points. A Quinnipiac University poll Sept. 24 had him trailing by 16 points.

Another troubling indicator for Thompson, the city's comptroller: his unfavorable rating has risen.

In last month's Marist poll, 22 percent of voters had a negative view of Thompson, and 29 percent did not know enough about him to rate him. The latest survey showed 33 percent had a negative view and 20 percent did not know enough.

"This is still a very open race and we are very optimistic," Thompson campaign spokeswoman Anne Fenton said Thursday.

Analysts say Bloomberg's overall lead and Thompson's unfavorable rating show the mayor has succeeded at shaping an unflattering image of Thompson through negative ads and criticism on the campaign trail, a tactic he did not employ as forcefully when he ran in 2005.

Since Thompson won the Democratic primary Sept. 15, Bloomberg's ads have been overwhelmingly negative and he has delivered sharper and more frequent attacks on his opponent.

Marist pollster Lee Miringoff said this month's Marist poll did have some discouraging information for Bloomberg, a former Republican running on Republican and Independent Party lines.

He has been advertising relentlessly since April, and his numbers, including a 63 percent approval rating, have not really moved.

Leading by 52 to 36 percent is comfortable, Miringoff said, but "not the kind of number that suggests a huge landslide."

Bloomberg has spent $64.8 million so far on his campaign, more than $33 million of that on advertising. Thompson raises money to finance his campaign and has spent about one-sixteenth of what Bloomberg has poured into his bid for a third term.

The Democrat began advertising on television just last month.

In a speech before business leaders Thursday, Bloomberg kept up the attacks, calling Thompson's economic plan "wishful thinking" for proposing billions in new spending but not enough revenue proposals to pay for it.

"There is no Santa Claus in budgeting," Bloomberg said.

In a speech Thursday, Thompson continued his chief complaint about Bloomberg, that he persuaded the City Council last year to change the term-limits law so he could run again. Bloomberg did so after long insisting he supported term limits.

Thompson characterized the mayor's actions as a civil rights violation, invoking past struggles like those of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.

"We cannot and will not give up on what those before us worked so hard to accomplish," Thompson said.

The Marist poll found that while some voters are angry about the term-limits issue and say it makes them less likely to vote for Bloomberg, the percentage has not changed since February, hovering around 42 to 44 percent.

The poll surveyed 744 New York City registered voters, 390 of whom were likely voters, from Monday through Wednesday. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

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