Good news for Joe Lhota! He's narrowing the gap in the polls in the race for mayor and picked up two percentage points this week. He's now just trailing Bill de Blasio by 41 points instead of 43. At this rate, he'll only lose by 29 points on Election Day.
Realizing that he has a heavy task ahead of him, Lhota yesterday called on de Blasio to debate him across the city for the next six weeks. It's an old strategy for a candidate who's behind in the polls, but it does raise an important point: it's a good thing for New York for there to be a meaningful dialogue about the future of the city during this general election campaign season, rather than treat it like a coronation.
Both de Blasio and Lhota are serious mayoral candidates with strong resumes and a real passion for the city. They have different visions for how New York should be run – but neither needs an instruction manual.
The two candidates are ideally suited to have a real discussion about New York in the post-Bloomberg era.
That means that de Blasio hopefully won't just treat the campaign trail like a giant political scavenger hunt – where he simply continues to pick up endorsements of Democratic machers. (Was anyone really wondering if Chuck Schumer or Hillary Clinton was going to back their party's nominee?) In the primary campaign, de Blasio spoke forcefully about his vision of New York, and he'll hopefully continue to discuss his policy plans, rather than just trot out endorsements or continue to talk about his battle to keep hospitals from closing.
Lhota has a rich background with city government, serving as Rudy Giuliani's top deputy in City Hall and then getting high praise for keeping the MTA running during Hurricane Sandy last year. But he's having trouble translating his exceptional experience into a rationale for why he should run City Hall. It's sometimes easier being the man behind the curtain than the one sitting in front of it. Beyond his calls for a debate, it would be helpful for Lhota to unveil more concrete policy proposals in a real effort to outwonk de Blasio moving ahead.
We can all sit at home and kvetch about getting tired of the Michael Bloomberg Show after 12 years or sing the praises of Bill de Blasio's multiracial family, but ultimately, city government is a lot more than that. Here's hoping for a real campaign over the next six weeks. A rout doesn't help anyone – except for a few political consultants.