Giuliani introduces Joe Lhota on NY1

Giuliani on Wednesday night. (NY1)
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Former mayor Rudy Giuliani said he hopes his former top aide, Joe Lhota, runs for mayor, and then, by way of explanation, he recited Lhota's resume.

"He worked with me for eight years," said Giuliani, on NY1's the Road to City Hall. "He did virtually every critical job in the administration. He was in charge of economic development. He was in charge of [the Office of Management and Budget], which was probably the most important job, meaning he understood the entire city budget. And then he was deputy mayor for operations, who was the number two person, who when I was out of town, would take over for me. So, he knows city government right, left, in-between, and he understands budgets.

"Joe's background before he came into government was in municipal finance. He was an expert on doing municipal finance all over the country, so he was enormously helpful to me in trying to figure out, how do we manage this budget? Where do we get savings? Where can we reinvest? If we're gonna do a tax decrease, how can we do a tax decrease, I know this is hard to believe, and make more money?"

That Giuliani felt the need to explain who Lhota was speaks volumes about the challenges Lhota will face should he indeed decide to run for mayor.

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Lhota served for just one year as head of the M.T.A., and he's well-regarded amongst those who pay attention to the inner-workings of the M.T.A., which isn't all that many people.

But there's more working against him than low name recognition, something Giuliani himself noted.

"I'm hoping that he runs," said Giuliani. "I told him very directly it's hard, very difficult. Electing a Republican is always a longshot. I got elected in '93, but only by 2.5 percent. Mike [Bloomberg] got elected in 2001, only by 3 percent. And we had a lot of things going for us when we got elected. But the reality is, I think it would be very good for the campaign, it would be very good for the city, because I think Joe will raise the level of the debate."

A Quinnipiac poll conducted in November, shortly after Lhota guided the transit system through a speedy post-Sandy recovery, showed him losing 60-9 to an unnamed Democrat, with 23 percent saying they didn't know or had no opinion on the question. 

As my colleague Azi Paybarah recently pointed out, it's also unclear how valuable Giuliani would prove as a Lhota surrogate, since "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."