With the Board of Elections still counting the vote in last week's primary, Bill de Blasio has entered the quasi-general election campaign. While it would be pretty mathematically surprising if de Blasio ends up in a primary runoff with Bill Thompson in two weeks – he is sort of pretending that the general election against Republican Joe Lhota hasn't quite started.
The campaign's weird soft launch is the result of de Blasio wanting to avoid alienating Thompson and any of his remaining die-hard supporters. It would be foolish to look like you're pushing out the only African-American candidate in the race, especially after exit polls showed you won the plurality of black voters.
Lhota, meanwhile, is trying to focus his firepower on de Blasio, while honing his own message and argument for the GOP to continue its winning streak in City Hall. As Blake Zeff astutely noted in yesterday's Daily News, Lhota cannot simply be the anti-de Blasio and expect to win. Because crime is so low in the city, New Yorkers aren't worried about law-and-order – and many voters don't even remember the bad old days of 1990.
Negative campaigns can work – but candidates for big offices like president, governor, and mayor must also provide a positive rationale for their candidacies. Lhota has less than two months to introduce himself to the vast majority of New Yorkers who have never heard of him before. De Blasio, meanwhile, is turning into this generation's John Lindsay, who successfully adopted the slogan: "He is fresh and everyone else is tired."
Lhota seems to realize that to mount a highly-competitive campaign, he must also seize upon the "change" mantra that sent Barack Obama to the White House and de Blasio hurtling out of the crowded pack of Democrats in this year's race for mayor. It's a very tough task but he has a chance to get a head start this week as de Blasio remains in quasi-campaign mode while the final votes are counted in his primary fight with Thompson.