Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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

NY1 ItCH: Joe Lhota Hopes For A Columbus Day Miracle

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With the election looming just a little more than three weeks away, Bill de Blasio is counting down the minutes while Joe Lhota is trying to cook up a strategy to make a dent in the polls.

Over the weekend, Lhota seized on an interview that de Blasio gave to MSNBC's Alec Baldwin – who told de Blasio that blindly embracing the NYPD's stop-and-frisk strategy is "lazy" -- as assessment that the Democrat agreed with.

Lhota tried to connect more than a few dots by then accusing de Blasio of characterizing the NYPD as "lazy." Hey, it's not like de Blasio called them "mall cops" – an unfortunate description Lhota gave to the Port Authority Police back in May.

Lhota is going to have to stop hunting for a de Blasio gaffe and instead focus on his own game. The next three Tuesdays will give us one-on-one debates with the candidates and they're Lhota's last real chance to make an impact with voters.

With the GOP highly unpopular because of the government shutdown, Lhota is going to have to do everything he can to convince New Yorkers that he's a different kind of Republican. Trying to portray de Blasio as an unrepentant radical likely won't work in a heavily-Democratic city – especially because de Blasio has hardly been a bomb thrower as Public Advocate and previously as a City Councilman.

Lhota's best hope may be the experience gap; he could point to his days as being the right-hand man to a powerful mayor, a businessman who was in charge of Madison Square Garden and someone who led the region's mass-transit system through one of its greatest crises in its history. While de Blasio has been a fixture of local Democratic politics since the era of David Dinkins, he has never led anything more than political campaigns and the relatively-small staff Public Advocate's office which has fewer than two dozen employees and a budget of less than $3 million.

In the end, experience may not trump change -- and polls are showing that New Yorkers are hungry for something new. After not seeing a Democrat in City Hall in 20 years, this could be a challenge for Lhota that not even Christopher Columbus would want to tackle.

Bob Hardt

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