Friday, April 18, 2014

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

NY1 ItCH: Trying To Run Out The Clock In The Mayor's Race

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It's amazing what a 40-point lead in the polls will do to a normally-chatty politician.

Bill de Blasio – who was seen literally running from reporters on Monday – is in hunker-down mode on the campaign trail. His public schedule this week has been reduced to basically one campaign event a day; today he's pressing the flesh with actual voters for the first time this week at a late afternoon event in Harlem. As Michael Saul in The Wall Street Journal points out, campaign aides "now habitually seek to limit the number of questions from reporters after roughly five minutes."

While this may all make sense politically, it's lousy policy. Sure, you won't throw an interception if you sit on the ball but ultimately it's a signal that maybe you won't take big chances or be daring when you're under pressure in City Hall. De Blasio has committed to an additional debate with Joe Lhota beyond the two that he's legally required to participate in but has stiff-armed a debate sponsored by NY1 and WNYC -- two media organizations that devote a total of three hours a day to municipal policy and politics and where de Blasio has been a frequent guest.

De Blasio's aides point out that their candidate will be taking part in the most number of general election debates since 1985 – when Ed Koch was running for a third term against Carol Bellamy and Diane McGrath. But Koch would be a good role model for de Blasio to follow; the mayor would often hold impromptu press conferences and was never afraid to talk to reporters or voters regardless of poll numbers.

At some point in his career, the transparency-loving Public Advocate will have to stop playing politics and tell his high-paid consultants to take a hike. So why not now? While it may be interesting to be measuring the drapes in Gracie Mansion, it's also helpful to continue your conversation with the New Yorkers who you may be governing for the next four years. Here's hoping for the clock-watching on the campaign trail to stop.

Bob Hardt

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