Giuliani Opens Door to Lhota Running in 2017

Joe and Rudy.

Joe and Rudy.

Rudy Giuliani this evening suggested that Joe Lhota might follow in his footsteps and run again for mayor in 2017 if he loses his bid tomorrow, as the polls suggest is likely.

“If he wants to run in four more years, he should run in four more years. He’s a very good candidate,” Mr. Giuliani told Politicker before the pair kicked off an evening of last-minute campaigning in Lower Manhattan.

Mr. Giuliani, who hired the Republican candidate to serve in his administration as deputy mayor, noted that when he ran for Gracie Mansion the first time it didn’t go as planned.

“First time I ran, I lost. I learned a lot. Second time I ran, I won. So it wouldn’t be the first time that someone has had to go through a campaign in order to win,” he said, adding that, while he fully expects Mr. Lhota to emerge victorious tomorrow, if he doesn’t, there will be a “consolation prize.”

“He’s a young man. He’s a man of a great talent. So if he wins, we’ll have a very great mayor. And if for some reason he loses, which can happen to any campaign, we’ll have somebody who can be a future leader of the city,” he said.

Despite trailing Democrat Bill de Blasio by nearly 40 points in most public polls going into Tuesday, Mr. Lhota refused to show any signs of disappointment. “I’m very optimistic about tomorrow,” he repeatedly said, side-stepping a question about his future plans. “I fully expect to be elected mayor tomorrow night,” he boasted.

Mr. Giuliani, who returned to the trail last week after being largely absent since the primary, said he hoped to be an asset to Mr. Lhota in the campaign’s final hours–even when the mere mention of his name elicited boos among some Democrats in Queens today.

“There are people who play to the worst instincts, like you saw last night. Horrible, disgusting, racist comment that was made about Mr. Koch. And they have a monopoly on that. And it does influence some people,” he said, referring to an incident yesterday in which one of Mr. Blasio’s most prominent backers, Harry Belafonte, compared the controversial Koch brothers–one of whom has contributed to an independent expenditure supporting Mr. Lhota–to the KKK.

“I think a lot of people will see that the city is safer if you have race-neutral policies. Racism can come in all forms. What you heard last night from Mr. de Blasio’s campaign was racism,” he said, displaying his signature fiery rhetoric.

“That’s the kind of division,” he added, “we used to have in this city before I became mayor.”

Mr. Giuliani went on to say that this year has been an especially tough one for Republicans because the city is doing relatively well.

“Remember, Mayor Bloomberg was behind for a very, very considerable amount until September 11 happened. And I probably wouldn’t have won if crime wasn’t going through the roof and that administration had completely fallen apart,” he said. “I think Joe, in some ways, is the victim of the good job that Mike Bloomberg has done. Mike has left a city that is, by all reasonable standards, in darn good shape, so …. to get people to people to feel what they were feeling back in ’01 or what they were feeling back in ’93 is very hard.”

After speaking to reporters, the pair headed outside to greet commuters on the chilly Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan. But despite all these months of campaigning, Mr. Lhota still seemed a bit of a novice, kicking off the event milling about and chatting with reporters inside a small, heated terminal, instead of engaging with voters. (Mr. Lhota’s wife eventually intervened, suggesting he speak with an undecided voter she had found.)

Later, at the Staten Island Ferry terminal, Mr. Giuliani tended to out-shine his candidate, earning hollers and cheers from commuters, who often asked him for hugs or photos as Mr. Lhota stood shaking passing hands.

“Rudy’s the best! He should have been in the White House!” shouted one passerby. “Rudy 2016!” others hollered.”

“Obviously Rudy Giuliani’s been best mayor this city’s ever had,” said Rob Peters, 46, who said he was planning to cast his ballot for Mr. Lhota. “He has potential if he can get the votes out. It doesn’t look so good right now, but hopefully we can pull something out tomorrow.”