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Joe Lhota on the go as clock ticks toward Election Day

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joe lhota Credit: Joe Lhota dines in Borough Park. (Craig Ruttle)

Republican Joe Lhota strode into Staten Island’s Halloween Extravaganza at Bloomingdale Park with fistfuls of Gobstoppers and Tootsie Pops and Baby Ruths.
He didn’t hand out palm cards or pamphlets or fliers. He barely asked for anyone’s vote.

“You got no literature? Where’s your literature?” Lhota endorser and borough president James Molinaro asked the candidate.

These are the final days of Lhota’s campaign for mayor. Rival Bill de Blasio has outraised him by millions. Every poll has Lhota trailing by about 40 points.

None of Lhota’s strategies have halted de Blasio’s momentum — not highlighting the Democrat’s past sympathizing with leftist revolutions in Latin America, not warning that his rival would doom the city to its past of chaos and crime, not strong performances by Lhota in two of three debates, not playing up his governmental know-how as a top deputy to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

“There’s no plausible chance of him winning on Tuesday, but that has been very apparent for five or six weeks now,” when the first polls forecast a landslide, said Tom Doherty, a GOP strategist and onetime top aide to former Gov. George Pataki.

De Blasio has stuck to a front-runner’s play-it-safe strategy.

In the past three weeks, his schedule has listed less than half as many public appearances and TV and radio interviews as during the primary campaign’s homestretch.

“Given what the polls are like, he really doesn’t want to change anybody’s mind,” said Kenneth Sherrill said, an emeritus professor of political science at Hunter College. “If people change their mind, it’s not in his direction.”
Lhota has been a regular on morning radio and TV, where he can reach a citywide audience.

But on the stump, he has spent much of the past three weeks in conservative-leaning locales like Staten Island and Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, shoring up a base too small to provide a foundation for victory in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 6 to 1.

Asked for the rationale, he said he doesn’t discuss strategy.

“There are friends here," Lhota said Thursday outside a kosher supermarket in Borough Park.

Lhota says he is unshaken by the polls.

“I am feeling more and more confident every day — every day,” he said.

That’s the attitude underdogs must maintain, say veterans of losing races.

“When you wake up at night, you say to yourself, ‘Oy vey, this is a problem,’” said Mark Green, a former public advocate, who has lost bids for mayor, congressman, U.S. senator and attorney general. “In between you have to just do your tackling and blocking and hope for the best and expect the worst. But never, never, never, can you convey to anyone other than maybe your spouse that you can’t win.”

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