How much Giuliani can Joe Lhota take?

Briefing: Giuliani (Azi Paybarah via flickr)
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"[Rudy] Giuliani is determined to play an outsize role in the race," the Times reports on A1.

His old deputy, Joe Lhota, is expected to formally announce his candidacy for mayor shortly, and Giuliani and his other former aides are already at work lining up support.

The Times story quotes Giuliani taking some shots at Lhota's likely Democratic opponents, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former comptroller Bill Thompson, suggesting that they'd give away the store to unions after the more conservative stewardship of the non-Democratic administrations since 1993.

And there was this: "Mr. Giuliani said that, if he received Mr. Lhota’s blessing, he would become a highly visible presence on the campaign trail."

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That's not an unalloyed good. Giuliani is still a divisive figure, and while he could certainly help raise Lhota's limited profile, he also helps open Lhota up to attack.

An Amsterdam News editorial this week is headlined "We don't need a Giuliani clone." Lhota in fact isn't a Giuliani clone. He holds some heterodox views and is sufficiently unformed as a candidate to present himself as his own man, in partisan and ideological terms. But that becomes harder if his former boss does the talking for him. 

While any Lhota candidacy will be steeped in rhetoric about the Giuliani administration's accomplishments, the question is how far Lhota cranks up that dial.

Registered Democrats far outnumber Republicans, and the Bloomberg administration has shown New York City that historically low crime rates can be achieved in Giuliani's city without Giuliani's bunker mentality.

In the 2001 election, the city was concerned that the safety and economic gains achieved during Giuliani's years would be lost, thanks to the terrorist attacks and massive turnover of elected officials forced out by term limits. Giuliani's endorsement of Michael Bloomberg ran non-stop in the last two weeks of the campaign and helped propel Bloomberg to a seemingly unexpected victory.

In the last mayor's race, Bloomberg's campaign shot footage of Giuliani but never ran a television ad featuring him. When Giuliani did speak on Bloomberg's behalf, at an event in Brooklyn, it was not helpful.

He told an Orthodox Jewish audience that he "worried daily" since leaving office that "the city might be turned back to the way it was, to the way it was before 1993. And you know exactly what what I'm talking about."

Bloomberg's opponent at the time was Thompson, the city comptroller who is African-American, as is David Dinkins, who served as mayor from 1990 to 1993. Giuliani's remarks were widely panned as stoking racial tensions. Bloomberg himself said he didn't agree with Giuliani's remarks, then wound up digging a deeper hole for himself, saying he worried New York City would turn into Detroit, a struggling city which is largely African-American.

When asked a day later about Giuliani's remarks, "Bloomberg spoke only about his own record, and his desire for harmony. He used the word 'I' 20 times, and mentioned Mr. Giuliani’s name a total of zero times."

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