By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - If Hillary Clinton decided to run as an independent for New York City mayor this year, she would open with a sizable lead over incumbent Democrat Bill de Blasio, according to Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday.
Clinton led de Blasio 49 percent to 30 percent in the survey of 1,138 city voters. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points, meaning results could vary that much either way.
Since Democrat Clinton's loss to Republican President-elect Donald Trump in November, there has been speculation that the former U.S. secretary of state and U.S. senator from New York state might set her sights on the New York City mayoralty this year.
Political analysts have dismissed the rumors, saying there is little chance Clinton, 69, would seek de Blasio's office after coming so close to winning the White House. Clinton's camp has not denied the possibility outright, though advisers have said they do not expect her to seek public office again.
A spokesman for de Blasio's re-election campaign and a Clinton spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The poll may also be a reflection of de Blasio's public standing, which has had its ups and downs during his four-year term. Forty-five percent of those surveyed approved of de Blasio, while a nearly identical 46 percent did not.
Nevertheless, the poll showed de Blasio ahead of other possible challengers, including former city council speaker Christine Quinn, who lost to de Blasio in the 2013 Democratic primary, and City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
"New Yorkers aren't in love with Mayor Bill de Blasio, but they seem to like him better than other possible choices – except Hillary Clinton, who probably is an impossible choice," Tim Malloy, the poll's assistant director, said in a statement.
The poll was apparently the first major survey to include Clinton as a potential mayoral candidate. New York City has never had a female mayor.
In the Nov. 8 presidential election, Clinton captured more than 80 percent of New York City votes, even though Trump was born and raised in the heavily Democratic city. She moved in 1999 to Chappaqua, New York, about 30 miles north of the city, in order to run for the U.S. Senate.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)