Bill de Blasio answers the general-election question

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On Saturday morning, a national TV audience got a look at what Bill de Blasio looks like as a front-runner, and as a prospective general-election candidate. 

In an appearance on "Up with Steve Kornacki," de Blasio was asked how his overhaul of stop-and-frisk would actually work in practice, and how he thinks he can win a general election after running to the left of the other Democrats in the primary, in a city that has rejected the Democratic nominee in five consecutive mayor's races.

"Realistically speaking, what is it going to look like on the streets under Bill de Blasio, to have stop and frisk and not to have the racial profiling aspect of it?" Kornacki asked. "What's that going to look like every day?"

"It's going to look like appropriate policing, and constitutionally mindful policing," de Blasio, without hesitation. "I'm the only Democratic candidate who's said we actually need a package of reforms at NYPD."

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Faced with a likely preview of what the line of attack on him would be in the general election from Republican consultant Rick Wilson—that de Blasio represents a return to the days of the Dinkins administration he used to serve in, and that he would find interest-group pressure to be irresistible—he turned to the same response he's used against Michael Bloomberg and his aides, calling it "fear-mongering," and saying that on public safety and responsible budgeting, there's no going back to the bad old days.

It wasn't de Blasio's first appearance on MSNBC since his break-out in the polls, but the previous ones were somewhat more congratulatory, taking his emergence from the pack in two public polls as vindication of his consistent positioning as a progressive alternative to Michael Bloomberg.

In a segment on his show "All In With Chris Hayes" on Wednesday night, Hayes called de Blasio "the candidate who, from the very beginning, staked out the strongest position against the city's stop-and frisk policy."

(That might have come as a surprise to John Liu, who is the only candidate to call for ending the policy altogether.)

Hayes also floated the idea that de Blasio might have received his recent bump in the polls as a result of a federal court's decision ordering New York to curtail the practice under the oversight of a federal monitor, even though the poll in question was mostly conducted before the decision came down. (The Quinnipiac poll surveyed voters from August 7 to 12; the judge's decision was handed down on the morning of the 12th.)

Hayes also suggested that de Blasio's position was "suddenly so popular that every single candidate seemed to be taking it up as their own," in the first televised debate, which took place the night before.

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Actually, the other candidates—who all, with the exception of Liu, support stop-and-frisk in a modified form—were mostly sticking to a script that they've been rehearsing in candidate forums throughout the year.

The thing that's very evidently working for de Blasio, and against his main rival Christine Quinn, is his early declaration that he would replace Ray Kelly as police commissioner if he became mayor. Quinn has said she'd keep Kelly even as she opposes the stop-and-frisk program he put in place, a position that's been tough to explain to voters and, apparently, TV hosts.

On Friday, host Thomas Roberts began an interview with Christine Quinn by asserting that she's a supporter of the policy and that de Blasio isn't, forcing the speaker to spend time, right off the bat, disputing the premise and reconciling her hard-to-reconcile position on Ray Kelly.

Quinn will have to do a lot more explaining between now and primary day. And de Blasio, who is not just interesting to people now because of what he has to say about his better-known opponents, will be getting a lot more questions that are about his own campaign, and about what he plans to do if he actually wins.