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

NY1 ItCH: Joe Lhota's Rose Garden Strategy For Early Retirement

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For most of this summer, the Republican candidates for mayor were eclipsed by their extremely-lively Democratic counterparts on the campaign trail. The return and fall of Anthony Weiner, the implosion of Christine Quinn, and the meteoric rise of Bill de Blasio all dominated the political headlines as GOP candidates Joe Lhota and John Catsimatidis quietly squared off in a fight that was decidedly on the undercard.

But with last week's primary finally out of the way (and the rapidly diminishing chance of a runoff being held), it is now time for the Republicans to take center stage and shine. Well, sort of.

Since winning his party's nomination last week, Joe Lhota has been sipping from the decaf end of the coffee cup. Yesterday and today, he started his morning by campaigning at a single subway stop -- and then that's been it for his public appearances for the day. You'd think he was up 43 percentage points instead of trailing de Blasio by that much in a poll that was released earlier this week.

When Bill Thompson backed de Blasio on Monday and Christine Quinn threw in her endorsement on Tuesday, it was a golden opportunity for Lhota to remind New York voters of all the nasty things that the two former Democratic candidates said about their old rival only just earlier this month. Instead, there was virtual radio silence from the candidate and the GOP.

Sure, candidates have plenty of other things to do besides kissing babies, meeting voters, and talking to the media. It's important to fundraise, brainstorm with consultants, and figure out a general election game plan. But it's also vital not to be virtually invisible in public with less than seven weeks to go before the election.

There have been periods in New York City history when Robert Wagner or Ed Koch ruled the roost and general elections were mere formalities, merely serving as speed bumps on the way to Gracie Mansion. If Joe Lhota doesn't wake up, we could be returning to a familiar old era in New York City politics.


Bob Hardt

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