The biggest thing [David N. Dinkins] had going for him wasn't racial tolerance. It was [Edward I. Koch]. One third of white Democrats had a negative opinion of Koch, and they voted 12-1 for Dinkins. Dinkins got double the white support than [Jesse Jackson] got last year.
Dinkins' image as a conciliator was useful against Koch, but it may not be what New Yorkers want in a mayor. New Yorkers believe being their mayor is the second toughest job in the country. Dinkins has to toughen up his act to compete with [Rudolph W. Giuliani], a crusading prosecutor who has taken on crack, crime and corruption.
If the polls show Dinkins collapsing, however, plenty of people will advise him to "play the racial card"-maximize black turnout by running a "movement" campaign: "It's us versus them." Jesse Jackson specializes in this and he is one of Dinkins' most prominent supporters. No one could deny Jackson the pleasure of gloating over Koch's defeat Tuesday. At Dinkins' victory celebration, he upstaged the candidate. "They were trying to get Jackson off the stage but he wouldn't go," said one Dinkins adviser.