As New York prepares to choose a new mayor Tuesday, the latest issue in a race short on drama and long on lopsided polls is none other than the candidates' sleep patterns, with Republican Joe Lhota taking swipes at Democrat Bill de Blasio for acknowledging he's "not a morning person."
Lhota could be forgiven for wishing more Democrats were inclined to snooze, as De Blasio did last Saturday when he was late for a campaign appearance. The latest polls show the Democrat with a huge advantage over Lhota, who on Monday refused to discuss surveys that show him trailing de Blasio by about 40 points.
"There's only one poll that counts, and that's the poll that opens up tomorrow," Lhota said as he tried to drum up support by shaking commuters' hands at a Manhattan subway station.
On Sunday, Lhota chided de Blasio for his late arrival at a weekend event and for admitting that he had overslept. "Being mayor is a 24-hour-a-day job, and you need to be physically prepared for it," said Lhota, who was deputy mayor under Rudolph Giuliani and who served last year as chief of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
De Blasio blamed his hour-late arrival on a pre-dawn phone call that "threw off my sleep cycle." "I am not a morning person," he said.
The Democrat fired back Monday at Lhota's questioning of his fitness for the mayor's office, saying he was usually up and at the gym shortly after 5 a.m.
During his own round of last-minute campaigning, De Blasio said he found the latest poll numbers gratifying but was not taking anything for granted. "You can't ever rest on your laurels. You can't ever act entitled. It doesn't work," said De Blasio, the city's public advocate, who soared from behind in the final weeks of the Democratic primary campaign to win the ballot spot.
"My entire political career I've run from behind, I've been an underdog. I'm used to that. And I think it's the only way to do the work in politics and the work in government is to be scrappy, to have an underdog attitude," De Blasio said.
As the campaign entered its final hours, De Blasio -- who has always led Lhota by a comfortable margin -- was forced into an awkward situation by one of his high-profile supporters, singer and social activist Harry Belafonte.
Belafonte introduced De Blasio at a Harlem church on Sunday, but before doing so, he used the pulpit to bash the conservative billionaire Koch brothers, David and Charles, as "white supremacists" sympathetic to "those who would belong to the Ku Klux Klan."
De Blasio said later that he disagreed with the characterization, even though he had "great respect" for Belafonte.
The city's polling stations open at 6 a.m. Tuesday and close at 9 p.m.