As a new poll shows a gap between the mayoral candidates wide enough for a subway train, Republican Joseph Lhota is launching a commercial he hopes will cast him as a moderate.
The spot essentially boils the differences between the two candidates down to two words: taxpayers’ cash.
“[Bill] de Blasio wants to raise taxes and increase wasteful government spending,” the ad, which began on cable and broadcast today declares (view below). “Lhota wants to cut wasteful government spending, putting more money back in your pocket.”
The candidates’ views on abortion, gay marriage and legalizing pot are the same, viewers will learn, a point Lhota desperately needs to get across to gain crossover voters in a 6-1 Democrat town.
Wednesday’s Quinnipiac University poll shows he has an uphill battle in that regard, with 71 percent of likely voters choosing de Blasio, against Lhota’s 21 percent. The gap has widened since a Sept. 19 poll, the first in the general election, showed the margin at 66-25.
Lhota won just 8 percent of Democrats’ support in the poll. De Blasio has similarly low crossover appeal with 9 percent of Republicans, but he needs far fewer of them to win.
A majority of people in the poll, 46 percent, said they do not believe thier taxes will go up with de Blasio as mayor. But 73 percent of those who believe they will pay more are Republicans, while just 23 percent of Democrats expect a tax hike.
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Lhota has more support among Jews than among voters as a whole, the poll suggests, with 36 percent to de Blasio’s 59 percent. (Voters identifying as Jewish represented 6.58 percent of 1,198 respondents.)
A Republican has won the last five elections, but Democrats seem to be shifting to the hard left this year after embracing Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg as acceptable moderates and crossover draws. This year, the major party candidates appear polarized both in local policy and worldview.
De Blasio has been cast as a self-described democratic socialist once infatuated with Nicaragua’s Sandinistas while Lhota’s past support for ultra-conservative Barry Goldwater in the 60s has cast him as a right-winger. Closer to home, de Blasio wants to reform stop-and-frisk policing and increase taxes on the rich while Lhota wants to cut spending to add programs and leave policing to the police.
The ongoing shutdown crisis in Washington, for which more Americans blame the GOP, may further dampen Lhota’s hopes as the public tires of partisanship that hampers government services.
As Lhota tries to blur the party lines, de Blasio’s campaign has done the opposite, highlighting in press releases this week his statement to a Staten Island Tea Party group that ” My philosophical issues are very close to yours in many, many ways” and pointing out Goldwater’s oposition to the civil rights movement. A Sept. 30 New York Times article looked at Lhota’s activism for Goldwater, the 1964 Republican presidential candidate.
Historian Fred Siegel, a scholar in residence at St. Francis College, said that any hope Lhota has to turn things around lies in highlighting de Blasio’s relative lack of managerial experience, compared to Lhota’s having run the MTA, the city’s budget office and operations as a deputy mayor under Rudoph Giuliani.
“As public advocate, [de Blasio] has no managerial experience,” Siegel said. “He has to go after him like [Republicans] went after Obama, that he has never managed anything. Among the middle class in this city, Obama is not the competent leader they thought he was.”
In response to the Quinnipiac poll, Lhota spokeswomen Jessica Proud said in a statement “… We remain confident that once New Yorkers learn more, they will choose Joe Lhota, a proven leader with a real plan to move New York forward.”
The poll was taken by cell and landlines between Sept. 25 and Oct. 1st.