Don’t hand those keys to the mayor’s office over to Michelle Wu just yet.
While the Roslindale city councilor is positioned to be the top vote-getter in the Boston preliminary election next Tuesday — maybe by a healthy margin — the race is going to change dramatically after Sept. 14, and winning the No. 1 spot doesn’t necessarily translate into victory in November.
Jumping from 30% in the preliminary to over 50% in the general will be a tough task for Wu, requiring her to expand her base of largely liberal voters.
Here are some reasons Wu has to fear in the next few months:
Momentum. Because polls already show her handily ahead, Wu would not come out of the election with the most momentum. She’s expected to win. That status would belong to the second-place finisher — especially if she comes closer to Wu than the polls suggest.
City Councilor Andrea Campbell has the most potential to springboard out of a second-place showing in the preliminary election with the most momentum because her campaign had lagged in fourth place until now.
But Annissa Essaibi-George and Acting Mayor Kim Janey would also benefit from a boom of publicity by snagging the second spot. Because Janey’s currently sitting in the mayor’s seat, she could find it easiest to convert her No. 2 showing to a win in November.
Attacks. Wu has largely been spared from any attacks by her opponents or in the media during the campaign, remarkable considering she is the clear front-runner.
But that will change quickly after Sept. 14.
Wu will face a likely much tougher general election matchup in which she’ll finally face some flak from her opponent, and be forced to defend her far-left platform, like establishing rent control, abolishing the Boston planning agency, diverting non-violent police calls to social workers, establishing a “chief of worker empowerment” and committing to a strong Green New Deal to combat climate change.
Essaibi-George could especially position herself as the moderate in the race to appeal to the broadest cross-section of voters in the city, including white and Black voters.
Outsider status. Wu is the only major candidate who doesn’t have lifelong ties to the city and can’t claim to be a native Bostonian — she was brought up in Chicago.
Wu has already sensed this is a potential weakness because she’s running TV spots prominently featuring the late Mayor Thomas M. Menino, whose ties to the city’s neighborhoods helped him win five terms.
But Janey, Essaibi-George and Campbell would be sure to try and exploit Wu’s upbringing in Chicago in an attempt to portray her as an outsider. All three have already emphasized their deep roots in Boston, which Wu doesn’t have.
Turnout. Wu is depending on a big turnout among younger voters — her best demographic — to ride her to victory in November. Polls suggest she’s being buoyed by strong support among the under-30 crowd.
But there’s a problem with that — young people generally don’t vote — at least not in numbers big enough to make them a major factor in the race.
It’s actually older voters now supporting Janey who are most likely to show up and vote.
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