At long last, Joe Lhota got the televised match he has repeatedly insisted would turn his electoral fortunes around.
But the Republican mayoral contender failed to deliver any knock-out blows that might shake his opponent, Bill de Blasio, off his dominating position in a Democratic-leaning city.
The night had plenty of feisty barbs as the two sparred over policing, jobs and affordable housing. But Mr. Lhota spent a good portion of the night on defense, as Mr. de Blasio tried to tar him as a Republican in the mold of the Tea Party activists currently being blamed for shutting down the federal government.
“You know, when you listen carefully, you’ll see that Mr. Lhota is a mainstream Republican,” Mr. de Blasio charged at one point. “My opponent never met a corporate subsidy he didn’t like,” he later hit.
Even in his closing remarks, Mr. de Blasio took one final jab before asking New Yorkers for their votes.
“Look, I know we need progressive change. We don’t need Republican, trickle-down economics or Tea Party extremism,” he said.
The accusations left Mr. Lhota clearly frustrated.
“Bill there you go again,” he said at one point early on. “You start talking about if I’m some sort of national Republican …. Don’t lump me in with people who I’m constantly in disagreement with. It’s not the right thing to do.”
“Do not lump me with the national Republicans. It’s unbecoming,” he later charged.
Still, Mr. Lhota got in hits, too. Answering his first question, Mr. Lhota repeated his accusation that Mr. de Blasio wanted the NYPD to have coffee with motorcycle gangs like the one that recently horrified the city with a violent road rage incident along the West Side highway. And after first side-stepping the question, Mr. Lhota concurred with his previous argument that the city might be less safe under a Mayor de Blasio.
“It might be less safe with him because he’s untested,” he said, before running through his past experience as deputy mayor and heading the MTA. “I can be mayor on Day 1 without any training, without any learning curve whatsoever,” he said.
After the debate, Mr. Lhota continued to stress the importance of the debates, and expressed confidence that he had delivered the kind of performance that might make a dent in the polls. Mr. de Blasio, in contrast, was insulated in his liberal Brooklyn neighborhood, Mr. Lhota argued.
“Bill de Blasio, all he wants to do is stay in Park Slope and never leave. It’s good to get his vision for the future, which I couldn’t hear tonight,” he said, offering more fiery words than he had on stage. “It’s just amazing to me that he is your typical, classic political hack, who doesn’t know what to do when he’s in a debate and talking about issues. You know, I really feel sorry for New Yorkers who were watching tonight. They turned on Channel 7 to be able to [hear us] talk about our visions for the future of the City of New York. We didn’t hear anything from Bill.”
“He kept harping and harping and harping when he had nothing better to say. All he did was attack me. That’s the sign of someone who doesn’t have a vision for New York,” Mr. Lhota continued.
Across the room, a jovial Mr. de Blasio was equally confident.
“I think it went great!” he declared. “There’s a clear contrast with me and Mr. Lhota. It was clearly on display here … And I believe that the vast majority of New Yorkers agree with the point of views that I put out today.”