An ‘exclusive’ poll overshadows Jennifer Hudson’s testimony, but why?

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Today's tabloids, April 24, 2012. ()
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Each day, the New York tabloids vie to sell readers at the newsstands on outrageous headlines, dramatic photography, and, occasionally, great reporting. Who is today's winner?

Daily News: "RUN, RAY, RUN!" reads the front page of today's Daily News, but based on the information contained inside, Kelly's closest and best advisers could be telling him the opposite.

If a general election for mayor were held today, Kelly would lose to Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson who, the poll shows, are the two most likely Democratic nominees. He would beat Bill de Blasio or Scott Stringer.

The article quotes G.O.P. chairman Ed Cox pointing out encouragingly that Kelly has achieved his standing in the polls without doing any campaigning at all, when of course Kelly is in enormously high-profile position now as a very successful police commissioner, and his approval ratings would be likely to go down, not up, if he were to subject himself to the more comprehensive scrutiny of a mayoral candidacy.

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(Kelly's approval ratings, by the way, are indeed remarkably high, at 77 percent. But this is nothing new: As Reid Pillifant wrote last year, Kelly's popularity has proven a lot more durable than his department's, or the mayor's, in part because he is incredibly diligent about doing campaign-like outreach. And in fact in early 2011 Kelly's approval rating was higher than the News poll shows it to be now.)

53 percent of respondents to the poll said that Kelly doesn't know enough about the job outside of law enforcement to be mayor; and remember that he has worked under three mayors, so the benefits of his crime-fighting prowess presumably remains available in a Quinn or Thompson administration, should either of them win.

The fact that these poll results should be placed into the service for a draft-Kelly campaign (the dek is "City voters want Kelly in mayoral race," but that refers to the question whether he should run, not whether they would vote for him) speaks to a desire to move papers, or actually to draft Kelly into the race, or both.

Also worth noting: The survey was conducted by Michael Bloomberg's pollster, Doug Schoen, who has a proven ability to make results fit a desired headline. (The News also carries an editorial today with the headline, "Go for it, Ray.")

Of course if you commission an EXCLUSIVE NEWS POLL, you better make it worth your while, which probably explains why the dramatic testimony yesterday of Jennifer Hudson rides shotgun instead of driving the page. "JENNIFER'S MURDER TRIAL AGONY" reads the compressed all-caps text over a pale yellow box, with a picture of Hudson in gala dress, her hands folded together and her face squinting in mid-cry (but likely a cry of joy, not of horror) set in the lower right. There's another installment of Baseball Bingo, by the way; who knows when this will end. Thomas Dean of Mineola is only slightly smaller than Hudson or Kelly, and he seems to wear photogrey glasses.

New York Post: Hudson begged her sister not to marry William Balfour, who she knew from grade school, and who is now charged with murdering her mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew in her childhood home in Chicago in 2008. In the made-for-TV proceedings, Hudson spent 45 minutes on the stand before taking some tissues to wipe away tears and exiting the courtroom. The front page is simple: A close-up profile of Hudson, so clear you can count the eyelashes, with text surrounding in knockout-white that reads "STAR WITNESS," and "Jennifer Hudson takes stand against the man who slaughtered her family." Hudson was in Tampa when the murders took place, so it's pretty clear why she is on the stand: To lend gravity to the proceedings, and not to provide information the prosecution could get any number of other ways. What can she know, apart from helping to establish Balfour's history of threats?

Observations: We've actually got two stars, with not much story. Ray Kelly with a poll that is sold as one that tells him to run but that actually tells him not to; Jennifer Hudson with testimony in a case where her testimony can't help much. But at least Hudson testified; Kelly isn't running, yet.

Winner: New York Post.