New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is reportedly considering a 2020 presidential campaign, possibly to bolster his national image — but new signs point to trouble for the progressive mayor, who is serving his second term.
Citing three sources close to de Blasio, the New York Daily News and the New York Post both reported Friday that he could announce a campaign as soon as next week, which would make him the 22nd candidate to join one of the most crowded fields in history.
A Monmouth University poll released in March found that of 12 declared and potential Democratic presidential candidates, de Blasio was the only potential contender to receive a negative favorability rating, with 18% of respondents holding a favorable view of the mayor compared with 24% with an unfavorable opinion of him.
“De Blasio’s is the only name among 23 candidates or potential candidates who have been tested in Monmouth’s polling this year to earn a net negative rating among Democrats,” the Monmouth pollsters said in a release.
Most presidential candidates, no matter how minor, can at least bank on some hometown support. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted in April, however, found that not only do 44% of New Yorkers disapprove of his job performance compared with 42% who approve, but an overwhelming 76% of New Yorkers also believed De Blasio shouldn’t run for president.
In addition to the grim polling numbers, dozens of former City Hall aides and de Blasio allies told Politico at the time they believe a run doesn’t make much sense at all considering that at the time, there were already 14 candidates in the race all running on many of the progressive ideals de Blasio espouses.
One former aide, speaking anonymously to Politico, said the idea of de Blasio running was “f—ing insane,” while another friend called it “idiotic.”
In an interview with Politico, de Blasio said he should be considered a serious presidential contender because of his record of implementing progressive policies in New York City, such as mandated paid sick time for workers and instituting universal prekindergarten.
“If you say, ‘OK, have I proven the ability to run an extraordinarily complex organization and get real results? Yes.’ And that should mean something,” the mayor said.
But de Blasio is far from the only candidate — or the only mayor — who can boast concrete progressive accomplishments, making it not particularly clear what his unique appeal or message would be.
His tenure as mayor has also been shrouded in his incessant and colorful feuding with Gov. Andrew Cuomo over who is responsible for fixing New York’s increasingly troubled public-transit system, among many other things, that The New York Times recently described as “so nasty, petty and prolonged that even in the cutthroat politics of New York, few can remember ever seeing anything quite like it.”
He’s also been criticized for feuding with his city council and the New York Police Department, frequently arriving late to meetings and funerals, sniping at reporters for their coverage of his city hall and shooing away an elderly woman who approached him in a Brooklyn YMCA asking him for assistance finding housing.
De Blasio has just four weeks to either reach 1% in three national polls or receive 65,000 donations from 20 states to be among the 20 candidates on the stage first Democratic primary debates in June — a tall order for the mayor given that 18 have already met at least one requirement, and he hasn’t even registered on the radar of most national pollsters, such as Morning Consult.
Considering the slim-to-none probability that De Blasio will make it to Iowa — or to the debates next month — what’s in this presidential run for him anyway?
The most obvious explanation is that given his underwater favorability and constant bickering with his colleagues in his current job, he could be using his presidential bid as a springboard to raise his national profile and set himself up for a cabinet or mid-level position in a hypothetical future Democratic administration.
But that could be a difficult bet given that de Blasio has also clashed with many powerful figures in both the establishment and the progressive wings of the national political sphere, famously drawing ire from Hillary Clinton and her allies after delaying a formal endorsement of Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders during the Democratic presidential primaries in 2015.
And while the mayor casts himself as a progressive, he’s also drawn fierce criticism from other progressives for his support of Amazon’s controversial proposal to build a second headquarters in Queens, New York.
The development was heavily opposed by other New York and national politicians, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who charged that the project would hasten the gentrification of low-income neighborhoods. (The e-commerce giant eventually canceled the development in February partly because of local resistance).
Given his archrival Cuomo’s close ties and endorsement of the Democratic frontrunner and former Vice President Joe Biden, de Blasio would be highly unlikely to be considered for a cabinet level position in a Biden administration.
And his ardent backing of the defunct Amazon deal wouldn’t make him an obvious candidate for a position in a hypothetical cabinet of Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Sanders, who have cast Amazon as the boogeyman of corporate greed at its worst — accusing the company using its monopolistic power to exploit low-wage workers and shake down governments for tax credits and subsidies.
As The New York Times’ Matt Flegenheimer recently reported, many past presidential candidates whose campaigns have fizzled out have still managed to parlay their elevated profiles into cable-news gigs, book deals, and even cabinet posts.
But doing any of that is contingent on having allies and solid relationships in your own party and in the media in the first place. And given de Blasio’s propensity to alienate many of his fellow Democrats and engage in skirmishes with reporters, it’s hard to see exactly how a campaign could be his ticket out of the mayor’s office.