With just a week to go before their primary, the leading Democratic candidates in the mayor's race are clearing their throats and preparing for a big debate tonight where four of them are getting ready to treat Bill de Blasio like a whack-a-mole.
It's remarkable how de Blasio, who appeared stuck in the second or third tier of candidates earlier this summer, is now the king of the hill. His arrest on July 10th at Long Island College Hospital to protest its planned closure looked like a desperate stunt, but that may have been the start of his turnaround -- along with Anthony Weiner's implosion later that month.
While it still seems unlikely that de Blasio will capture the 40 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff, Bill Thompson and Christine Quinn are throwing everything including the kitchen sink at him to keep him below that magic number. (Thompson has even launched Bill de Bliar, a rabid anti-de Blasio website.) I almost expect them to raise sinister questions about Dante de Blasio's beloved afro.
Tonight's debate will be a good test for de Blasio who will be forced to take 60 minutes of unfriendly televised fire from some ambitious politicians who are facing early retirement. (Also: how bizarre is it that WNBC – one of the sponsors of the debate – isn't airing the final 30 minutes of the 90-minute showdown, instead relegating it to its website?)
If you want to see how de Blasio would respond in a moment of crisis in City Hall, tonight may be the best rehearsal that you're going to get. And for Quinn and Thompson, it may be the last real chance they have to change the dynamics in the race and sneak into a runoff where they'll live to fight for another day.
And a reminder: NY1 will have special post-debate coverage at 8 p.m. with full analysis of the showdown.