After Three Debates, Lhota Says His Message Isn't Out

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In the end, there wasn't much to debate, except for everything they'd debated already. Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota spent 90 minutes finger-wagging Wednesday night after a general election that is closing where it opened -- with a tussle over a Dickens novel and the deconstruction of the word "divisive."

Joe Lhota and Bill de Blasio did get into a vigorous debate about leadership. "Anyone who's a leader doesn't start talking about plan B's, plan C's. You talk about your vision and how you're going to get it done," de Blasio said in response to a question about what he'd do if he couldn't get Albany legislators to agree to hike taxes to pay for universal pre-K.

"Mr. de Blasio said that leaders don't have a plan B," Lhota retorted. "You know why he says something like that? He has no management experience whatsoever. He's never managed anything but political campaigns and a public advocate's office. Let me tell you, real leaders not only have a plan B, but a plan C."

That may have been a whiff of the campaign he'd wished he'd run -- one based on his own management skills and leadership in a time of crisis.   But Lhota, standing right next to the considerably taller de Blasio, seemed unable to land any punches, despite his prediction that he was Rocky Balboa to de Blasio's Ivan Drago.

Lhota seemed to flounder when he suggested that both San Francisco and Washington, D.C. had lost population after implementing paid sick leave policies. But a passel of Twitter followers shot back with the stats that both cities have grown in population since 2010.

The debate was sponsored by WNBC-TV and the Wall Street Journal.

And de Blasio seemed to catch Lhota off-guard when, while asking whether Lhota thought former Mayor Rudy Giuliani had been divisive, he referred to the case of Patrick Dorismond, a security guard killed by an undercover cop. Mayor Giuliani was quick to say Dorismond was no "altar boy" and had his juvenile records released.

"The divisiveness that existed was minute compared to all the great things that happened. I am inextricably linked with the Giuliani administration and I am proud of it," Lhota said, before more back and forth where Lhota demanded de Blasio "be specific" about divisiveness.  

"The Dorismond case further divided an already tense city.  He was unapologetic about accusing a victim," de Blasio said.

"I don't think that's divisive," Lhota shot back.

The two did agree on what they spend on groceries: about $400 a month. The average weekly food bill is about $236 a week, the Department of Agriculture estimates. Though de Blasio has only one child living at home, that child, as we know all too well, is a teenage son.

Throughout the campaign, Lhota has been teetering on whether a "Tale of Two Cities" is divisive or apt. On Wednesday, he came down on the side of divisive, before charging that the campaign had been a "Tale of Two de Blasios." But he said that at the end of 90 minutes, long after the debate had switched from broadcast television to the internet.