The New York City Mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, is watching his lead over Hillary Rodham Clinton crumble in their US Senate race as he struggles to handle another police shooting of an unarmed African American - the fourth such incident in the city in little over a year.
Two weeks after undercover police officers fatally shot Patrick Dorismond, 26, while he attempted to hail a taxi in midtown Manhattan, a new survey by the leading New York pollsters Zogby International shows Mr Giuliani trailing the first lady, with 42.3 per cent compared with her 45 per cent. He had previously enjoyed a lead of seven points.
In a further blow to his standing, Mr Giuliani has this week suffered final defeat in his dispute with the Brooklyn Museum of Art over its presentation last year of "Sensation", an exhibition of works by young British artists from the Saatchi collection, which he considered obscene.
A deal announced on Monday saw both sides agree to drop their legal challenges. Mr Giuliani had attempted to cut off the museum's public funding and even evict it from the home it has occupied for a century. Instead, he has now pledged to give it $5.8m for renovations.
Far more important now, however, is the Dorismond affair, which comes on the heels of the shooting last year of Amadou Diallo in the Bronx.
Once more, Mayor Giuliani faces widespread criticism for showing almost zero sympathy for the victim in the shooting and siding with the police.
The ruckus - which deepened when the mayor apparently broke the law by unsealing Dorismond's juvenile criminal record - handed Mrs Clinton the opportunity to exploit what may be Mr Giuliani's most glaring weakness: his perceived inability to show compassion, especially towards minorities. He has defended his actions, insisting that the criminal record helped to show that Dorismond was not a perfect citizen. Scuffles with police at Dorismond's funeral at the weekend left 17 people hurt.
Just days ago, supporters of Mrs Clinton feared she might never close the gap with the mayor. Now all is changed. "He's handing her the race," John Zogby, head of the polling group, commented. "It's not that she's doing better, it's that he's doing worse."
The mayor has seen support in New York City itself plummet to 28 per cent from 44 per cent just three weeks ago. "That's pretty pathetic," Mr Zogby said, adding that the mayor need capture only about one-third of the vote in the city to win the race statewide in November. "This is Rudy's race to lose. And the voters want to see a much more sensitive side to him."
In a high-profile defection, the Rev Michael Faulkner, a black Manhattan church leader, who has been a long-time supporter of the mayor, is now demanding that he resign from City Hall. This week he started a fast to underscore his fury. "I'm asking God either to change his heart or remove him," Rev Faulkner declared. "The city is being torn apart by anger, distrust and bitterness."Reuse content