After last week's debate in which Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota switched roles of attacker and attackee, expect tonight's showdown to be a little bit different.
De Blasio may have surprised Lhota by the toughness of his attacks, hammering away at his Republican party affiliation and the fact that he met with Staten Island Tea Party members earlier this year. While Lhota didn't just sit back and take it, he noticeably half-punched when asked if the city will be less safe under de Blasio, saying: "It might be less safe with him because he's untested."
Let's remove that "might" from Lhota's political vocabulary. Since the debate, he seems to have eaten some red meat, launching a tough attack ad that all but claims New York will return to the Abe Beame era if de Blasio is elected. Lhota also took some swipes at reporters in interviews on Thursday – either signaling that he's at the end of his rope or that he's priming up for a stronger debate performance.
Beyond the fact that he's trailing by more than 40 points in every poll, Lhota's problem is that first debates get the most attention and generally set the narrative for the other debates. At this point, a homerun in a debate might not be enough – but at least it would be a start for a campaign that has been stuck in neutral.
Postscript: R.I.P. Major Owens. I had the privilege of interviewing the former Congressman at a forum at the Brooklyn Book Fair when he published "The Peacock Elite", his tough book on the Congressional Black Caucus. He was a pleasure to speak with and was a courteous presence in the rough-and-tumble world of Brooklyn politics.