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Lhota, Confident In Comeback, Compares Himself To Red Sox Slugger

Recent Polls Show Lhota Trailing De Blasio By A Sizable Margin

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)One day after the second of three New York City mayoral debates, Republican challenger Joe Lhota said he’s confident he can close a sizable gap in the polls ahead of the Nov. 5 election.

“If Papi [David Ortiz] can get a grand slam in last week’s game up in Boston, so can I,” Lhota said.

Lhota referenced the Boston Red Sox designated hitter who launched a decisive home run to help his team make it to the World Series.

Speaking Wednesday to a gathering of building managers in Midtown, Lhota also bristled at Democrat Bill de Blasio’s claims and says there is nothing racial in his TV spot. Lhota’s ad contends that de Blasio has a “recklessly dangerous agenda on crime.

De Blasio has called the ad “fear-mongering” and at Tuesday night’s debate said it had racial overtones. Click here to watch the debate.

“He threw out the race card as if it was 25 cents in his pocket,” Lhota said. “As I said, it’s infuriating for me that people throw out the race card when we have these various cards you pick up in the funeral homes for people who have been shot, the prayer cards.”

Lhota said de Blasio’s naivety grows by the day.

When asked whether he’s bringing out any big political names to campaign for him in the closing days of the race, Lhota ruled out what he called a grotesque waste of time.

He did, however, hint at a possible show of support from his old boss, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Lhota said if de Blasio wants to talk about the “bad old days,” he’s game for that battle.

“I’m inextricably linked to Rudy Giuliani, but if that’s the direction he wants to go in, I want to remind everybody that he worked for the biggest failure of a mayor that’s ever hit the shores of the city of New York,” Lhota said. “David Dinkins was an abysmal failure right from the get-go.”

Questions from reporters on whether he has caught a new groove seemed to put a smile on the candidate’s face, WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reported.

Also Wednesday, Lhota said de Blasio has used his family in campaign ads because he “has no big ideas.”

De Blasio fired back against that critique.

“Taxing the wealthy so we can have full-day pre-K, so we can have after-school for every child that needs it at the middle school level. That’s a big idea,” the Democrat said. “I think mandatory inclusionary zoning and creating 200,000 units of affordable housing is a big idea. I think fixing the relationship between police and communities so we can be safe for the long term is a big idea.”

De Blasio’s teenaged son and daughter have each appeared in campaign ads. His wife has also been active on the campaign trail.

The family is also featured in the latest issue of People magazine under the headline “Modern Family.”

Jeanne Zaino, a political science professor at Iona College, said Lhota might need more than a grand slam to have a chance Nov. 5.

“The big question is … does it matter?” she told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer of Lhota’s debate performance. “Is it going to close this 40-plus point gap? It’s a little bit too late at this point to close that gap.”

Zaino added that Lhota may have another strategy in mind.

“I think what Lhota’s really trying to do is set himself up for four years from now,” she said. “I mean, he’s got to get out of this thing with the hope he would be a candidate that the Republican Party would consider four years from now.”

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