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Bloomberg and Thompson shift focus to turnout

Thousands of hands have been shaken, hours of speeches have been made and multi-million dollar TV ads have been repeated on an endless loop.
Now it all comes down to the ground game.

Both Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Comptroller Bill Thompson will focus today on getting their supporters to the polls, a mean feat in what has proven to be a less than blockbuster campaign.

“I think it’s going to be a very low turnout race,” said Kenneth Sherrill, a political science professor at Hunter College. “Who benefits from that is very difficult to predict.”

Voters interviewed this week gave the two-term mayor high marks for his record on crime and education, but criticized him for going against voter wishes and extending term limits and for rising fees and taxes.

Thompson was praised as a champion for the middle class, even though many voters said they knew little about him.

“(Bloomberg) violated the trust of the people,” said Brian Wilson, 48, of Brooklyn, referring to the mayor’s flip-flop on term limits. “He’s already had eight years and I think he’s setting a really bad precedent.”

Juan Lugo, 64, of the Bronx, a Bloomberg backer, said public safety is his primary motivation for voting. “Bloomberg has done a lot of good,” he said. “I feel safer on the streets because of him.”

Bloomberg, running on the Republican and Independence lines, will rely on 5,000 volunteers and his campaign is expected to knock on 100,000 doors Tuesday, officials said.

Thompson, the Democrat, is backed by a handful of key unions and the Working Families Party, which will look to traditional Democratic activists. The campaign said it will mobilize 2,000 volunteers Tuesday.

“This race will depend on turnout,” said Eddy Castell, Thompson’s campaign manager. “It’s important for us to close strong: mail, phone calls, canvassing.”

Bloomberg -- who leads 50 to 38 percent according to a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday – has been preaching the same message.

“We’ve got to tell every single voter we meet that we can’t take this election for granted,” he told volunteers.

Chris James and Phoebe Kingsak contributed to this story

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