Democrat Bill de Blasio has shown the city a breathtaking tour de force as his mayoral campaign roars toward Election Day with a giant lead.
There's much he has done right. He sized up the political zeitgeist with canny clarity early on and deftly seized on the electorate's burgeoning fatigue with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Even his divisive tale-of-two-cities theme has given him a wide lead.
But here's the question for New York City voters and those whose lives and finances are tied to the metropolis next door.
Would de Blasio make a better mayor than his moderate Republican rival, Joe Lhota?
We believe he would not.
De Blasio, a political strategist by trade and currently New York City's public advocate, is a liberal ideologue who knows how to weave a simple story from complex economic figures. Yet the subtext of his campaign is that the rich are prospering on the backs of the poor.
Bronx-born Joe Lhota, by contrast, is a classic, plain-speaking New Yorker with deep roots in the working class and an abiding faith in the paths it provides for upward mobility. Lhota knows from his own hard experience that the city must be run competently to serve its 8.4 million people with dignity and effectiveness.
Last year he expertly guided the MTA through the massive destruction from Sandy. Lhota has also run the city's Finance Department and was a deputy mayor to Rudy Giuliani on 9/11.
He knows his way in the private sector, too. He has been an investment banker, and held executive positions at Madison Square Garden and Cablevision, owner of Newsday.
This matters because the next mayor will find himself running a city with 300,000 workers and a budget of $70 billion a year. He also will face more than 150 expired union contracts begging for quick settlements.
Lhota plainly has the administrative chops to run a city as complex and as crucial as New York. De Blasio doesn't come close.
At the same time, it's hard to see how de Blasio can deliver on his signature proposal to raise city income taxes on New Yorkers making more than $500,000 and pour the money into a citywide prekindergarten program.
Albany controls the local income tax, and already has extended its surcharge on state income taxes for "the rich." It's in no mood to pile on with another hike. De Blasio says the income tax increase would raise $500 million for the program -- but the city already gets half as much from the state for pre-k.
Lhota is a booster of universal pre-K, but would pay for it with existing revenues -- a more reasonable approach.
While de Blasio has a commanding lead, it doesn't mean he's qualified for one of the toughest jobs in America.
Joe Lhota is the superior candidate. Newsday endorses Lhota for mayor.