Any part-time political junkie can rattle off the list of memorable moments in American debates. There you go again. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy. There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. What would you do if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered? Whom am I? Why am I here?
The list is revealing, and–even though the all-time local debate highlight reel is a lot shorter than the presidential one–are relevant to tonight’s first citywide debate of the 2017 campaign season. Debates tend to be remembered not for the full scorecard of who won or lost but for particular moments or soundbites. And as Mike Dukakis or Gerald Ford or James Stockdale can attest, it’s the mistakes that tend to make the headlines the next day. It’s not so much that you win a debate as someone else loses it.
The Wednesday night matchup between Mayor de Blasio and former Councilman Sal Albanese might produce such a moment and such a result. Whether anything can upset the trajectory of the primary race, in which the mayor is cruising against Albanese and three other candidates who either did not qualify or were not invited to the debate, is a different question.
But as Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and yours truly discuss in the podcast below, the debate will be a broader test for both candidates.
Can Albanese, who 20 years ago rode his blue-collar progressive message against steep odds to a solid finish in the 1997 primary, move beyond his angry critique of de Blasio articulate an alternate vision of how to run the city?
Can de Blasio make a concise, compelling case that he has delivered on the promise that attached to him in 2013, and can he map out as inspiring a mission for the next four years?
We also discuss what the other candidates who are on the ballot but not the debate stage might have brought to the table.
Listen now. Watch later (7 p.m., NY1, WNYC). And tell us what you think.