Monday, April 21, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: A Schizoid Debate As De Blasio Fosters Fear

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We’ve heard about a tale of two cities and a tale of two de Blasios in the race for mayor. Last night, it was a tale of two debates.

For much of the first hour in last night’s Democratic showdown, the five candidates didn’t really mix it up – while a strangely-relaxed Anthony Weiner had several strong moments in WNBC’s studios, where he sometimes played commentator and even jumped to the defense of frontrunner Bill de Blasio.

Rather than eliciting any kind of strong dialogue between the five candidates, clock management seemed to be the initial priority of the panelists, who frequently cut off the speakers mid-sentence.

It was a very different story when the debate was relegated to an Internet-only affair (which can be seen on WNBC’s website) when the panelists seemed to relax more – and the candidates started swinging away – largely at de Blasio. John Liu played designated pit bull – not only ripping the Public Advocate but also going after Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson.

With a new poll showing him above the 40 percent needed to avoid a runoff, de Blasio was hit by a wave of attacks in the debate’s final 30 minutes, when he was accused of being a serial flip-flopper on issues ranging from term limits to the Living Wage Bill to porky member items in the City Council. But even if he didn’t necessarily parry away the questions, the Public Advocate certainly ducked a lot – avoiding a “gotcha” like moment that could derail his campaign that lately seems like it’s fueled by helium.

One of the greatest problems for Quinn is that while many of her criticisms of de Blasio are on target and ring true, she’s dwelling in a mansion made of glass. While de Blasio reversed himself on term limits, so did Quinn. While de Blasio took member items in the Council and later criticized them, Quinn was in charge of the Council during the slush fund scandal. If de Blasio played Johnny Come Lately on the Living Wage Bill, Quinn was even later. Quinn’s frustration with her chief rival stems from the fact that she rarely plays the holier-than-thou card while de Blasio has been dealing it in spades.

All of this Democratic infighting and de Blasio’s rise must be making Republican frontrunner Joe Lhota happy. Today’s column by the Post’s Michael Goodwin is already trying to push Mayor Bloomberg’s political team to support Lhota should de Blasio be the Democratic nominee. While we have a long way to go before the general election, it’s interesting to see that there are already stirrings of a political movement to stop de Blasio at all costs. And now the Koch brothers are getting involved. This week will get even muddier.

Bob Hardt

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