Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani joined the campaign trail today, making a final push for his former deputy mayor, Joe Lhota, and threatening doom and gloom if a Democrat is elected in November.
Standing in Mr. Lhota’s campaign headquarters near Grand Central station this morning, Mr. Giuliani praised Mr. Lhota as the only candidate qualified to be mayor, comparing the current Democratic field to former Public Advocate Mark Green, who would have taken over if anything had happened to him when he was mayor.
“I had to keep him healthy,” Mr. Giuliani said of Mr. Lhota, “because if it wasn’t him it would have been Mark Green … I mean, I was so frightened in my last year in office that I would be succeeded by some of the people like the people who are now running, who are career Democratic politicians and were gonna take the city back to the way it was before 1994. Well those people look good compared to these people.”
Mr. Giulani argued that the last time a “career Democrat” was in charge, the city was under siege by high unemployment and spiraling crime, with 2,000 murders a year and thousands of weekly felonies–as well as “two riots” over the course of as many years. He was especially harsh on the issue of policing, warning the group of assembled supporters: “It is not very difficult to go back to those days.”
“Every one of these Democratic candidates will destroy policing as we know it, started by me and continued by Mayor Bloomberg,” he said, pointing to Chicago as a portent of the future. “You have a three-and–half times greater chance of being slaughtered in the streets of Chicago than in the streets of New York,” he said. “And what’s the difference between New York and Chicago?” he asked. “The difference is our policing.”
Mr. Giuliani also highlighted Mr. Lhota’s resume as his former budget chief and deputy mayor or operations, including his role following the September 11th terrorist attacks.
“This is the man who helped me get through–and the city –September 11th,” he said, describing how, when he arrived at Ground Zero, the first person he saw on the ground was Mr. Lhota. Mr. Giuliani said he spent much of that day deciding which of his staffers could “handle it” and which of them couldn’t. With Mr. Lhota, he said, it was clear. “I looked into Joe Lhota’s eyes. I saw eyes of steel. They remained that way for four months,” he said. “He’s been tested. They haven’t been tested.”
While Mr. Giuliani has appeared in multiple campaign ads and has spoken at smaller events, the day marked the first major roll-out of Mr. Giuliani, who spoke at the morning breakfast and also appeared with Mr. Lhota following this afternoon’s final debate.
But while Mr. Giuliani remains popular among the Republican voters that Mr. Lhota will need to turn out to win Tuesday’s Republican primary (the room fell completely silent, for instance, this morning when he walked in), many question whether Mr. Giuliani–who shifted sharply to the right when he ran for president–will be more of a liability in the general election, where Democrats will dominate.
But Mr. Giuliani dismissed the idea. “It’s not about me,” he said, calling the question “silly.”
He also responded to an ad from Mr. Lhota’s chief rival, billionaire John Catsimatidis, which declared that Mr. Lhota “is no Rudy Giuliani.”
“Thank goodness!” said the former mayor, with a laugh. “That would be really strange if there was two of me. Wow. The city could only handle one of me, just like they could only handle one of Ed Koch. Joe Lhota is Joe Lhota,” he said, stressing the two “share a great deal in common,” but also have their differences.
For his part, Mr. Lhota painted his Democratic rivals with the same broad stroke. And while he declined to say which one he’d prefer to face come the general, he argued that the ”stark difference between the candidates is going to be very, very telling.”