Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams and Republican Curtis Sliwa will face off Wednesday evening for the first of two debates ahead of the Nov. 2 election to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The one-hour debate, which will begin at 7 p.m. on WNBC, should be “fun,” though it will be an “uphill battle” for Sliwa to sway a meaningful number of voters in the heavily Democratic Big Apple, experts told The Post on Tuesday.
Chris Coffey — a veteran strategist and Bloomberg administration staffer who ran Andrew Yang’s 2021 mayoral primary campaign — called Adams a “very good debater.” He predicted an entertaining but ultimately insignificant event, given the results of recent mayoral general elections in the five boroughs, where Democrats enjoy a 7-to-1 voter-registration advantage.
“Joe Lhota, in 2013, was a competent, good Republican candidate and lost by 50 points – and New York has become more Democratic, not less,” he said of de Blasio’s first mayoral victory. “It could be a fun hour, but it’s not anything real.”
Coffey quipped, “He needs Eric Adams to drop dead on the stage and I’m not even sure that would work.”
Veteran GOP strategist Evan Siegfried agreed.
“Eric Adams just needs to not fall flat on his face and raise questions about his ability to be mayor and lead the city to the point that voters would say, ‘Wait a second’,” he said.
The Republican operative said Wednesday would be a struggle for his party’s nominee.
“The task Curtis Sliwa has ahead of him in the debate — uphill is a generous term,” he said.
Peter Kaufmann — who has served as a political consultant for de Blasio, disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — noted the Guardian Angels founder’s biggest obstacle in the debate is that his longtime focus on public safety does not present much of an advantage in a contest against Adams, a former NYPD captain who in the Democratic primary ran on a moderate, tough-on-crime message.
“I don’t think he’ll be able to out tough the cop,” he said.
As O’Brien Murray, a political consultant who has represented moderate and conservative Democrats as well as Republicans, explained the dynamic, “The fact that Eric won the primary took that arrow out of Curtis’ quiver.”
Still, Murray expects Sliwa had some tricks up his sleeve for Wednesday’s debate.
“Curtis is a wildcard,” he said. “He’s a loose cannon.”
Kauffman, a longtime Democratic operative, predicted the red beret-wearing longtime media personality would act in a “bombastic” manner while Adams would adopt a more staid presence.
“Curtis Sliwa is going to throw as many haymakers as he can and try to score points. I expect him to be more aggressive and bombastic,” he said. “Curtis may pull out his props.”
“I expect Eric Adams will go out and look like a mayor.”
Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime Democratic strategist, said the Republican underdog’s best chance at making a dent would be to articulate an out-with-the-old message against Adams, a former state senator and current Brooklyn borough president.
“Curtis Sliwa has no shot except to prove that Adams is not a crime fighter and that Adams is just going to bring back old style politics the city can’t afford and doesn’t need,” he said.
Adams, he said, should present “himself as a visionary who can save the city’s tax base.”
“Adams has to act like a mayor, and Sliwa has to act like he’s beating up a mayor,” Sheinkopf said of the matchup.
“Adams as the crusader for the future, versus the beret-ed crusader of the past.”