Pick your poll but either way, Nicole Malliotakis has to move heaven and earth to catch Bill de Blasio in the race for mayor.

A Qunnipiac University poll gives the mayor a 40-point lead over this Republican challenger. And that’s the good news poll for Malliotakis -- an NBC-Marist poll has de Blasio up 42 points.

At this point, next week’s debate with the two candidates plus independent Bo Dietl is quickly turning into “Nicole’s Last Stand” with time running out on the Staten Island Assemblywoman. The forum, sponsored by a group of organizations including NY1, gives her a chance to actually share the stage with the man she’s trying to take down in a massive upset.

There are plenty of issues in which the mayor deserves some hard questioning.  From the homelessness crisis to his management of the budget to his own dithering in national politics, de Blasio has frustrated many New Yorkers, particularly those who feel that he’s often overlooked the city’s middle class and sometimes seemed disconnected from his day job.

But Malliotakis hasn’t exactly seized the day. An ad featuring her with boxing gloves seemed crafted on the stage of “Saturday Night Live” while she let a prime moment slip away yesterday while addressing the Association for a Better New York.

In a room with some of the city’s business leaders, Malliotakis could have delivered a powerful speech on the mayor’s reluctance to embrace public-private partnerships  – a signature ABNY issue.

After all, it’s only in an election year that we finally got to see the mayor finally make his way to the High Line park or attend a black-tie gala last night at the Brooklyn Bridge park, two success stories that seem to irk Hizzoner because of their wealthy boosters. And even when it comes to luring big businesses to the city, the mayor can’t even bother to try shopping on Amazon – a company he ostensibly wants to move here.

But it’s a speech that Malliotakis didn’t deliver and she later compounded her error, stepping on any message she might have had at ABNY by holding a press conference about school security.

Regardless of strategic mistakes, both Malliotakis and Dietl have a real opportunity to introduce themselves to New Yorkers while the mayor stands by their side. There are plenty of questions to be tackled by the candidates and let’s hope we get some serious answers by them on Tuesday night.


Bob Hardt