Look, I know I’ve been saying for months that anyone who wants to run to try to defeat President Trump should run. And now New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is the 23rd Democrat to join the race for the presidential nomination. But hizzoner really shouldn’t. If past is prologue, de Blasio enters the race already marked for doom.
Big Apple mayors always think City Hall is a political trampoline to higher office. As if running the country’s largest city — with a budget and police force that rival those of some foreign nations — inherently makes them qualified to sashay onto a bigger political stage. Instead, it’s a diving board into an empty pool.
Mayor John Lindsay (R) failed in his bid for the White House as a Democrat in 1972. Mayor Ed Koch (D) made an unsuccessful run for governor in 1982. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani flopped miserably in a run for the U.S. Senate in 2000. His withdrawal 19 years ago this month from a looming campaign against then-first lady Hillary Clinton was but one of three operatic high-C moments for hizzoner. The only Big Apple mayor to entertain a run for higher office and then have the good sense to say no was Michael Bloomberg. He did, however, get the City Council to change the term-limits law to allow him to run successfully for a third term, but anyway ...
Still, there are other reasons de Blasio is doomed — chief among them being how much his fellow New Yorkers don’t want him to run. In a Quinnipiac University poll last month, 76 percent of New York City voters said the mayor shouldn’t run for president. His job approval rating in that same poll sat at just 42 percent. So laughable is the idea of a de Blasio run for the Oval Office that the New York Post (admittedly no fan of the mayor’s to begin with) published an instant-classic front page to welcome him to the race.
But here is the more substantive reason de Blasio very well might be going nowhere fast. His policy accomplishments aren’t going to be enough for the Democratic Party base.
In his announcement video, de Blasio touts some big wins that are praised by the left. There’s a $15 minimum wage, universal prekindergarten, paid sick leave and guaranteed health care. If de Blasio were an Eagle Scout, his uniform would be festooned with merit badges. But that won’t be enough to win the nomination. Don’t believe me? Remember Martin O’Malley?
O’Malley was the former hard-charging governor of Maryland who threw his hat in the ring for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination against (by then) former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). While those two espoused support for issues close to the hearts of the Democratic base, O’Malley could actually talk about how he made them happen in Maryland.
As I noted at the time, national Democrats favored helping undocumented young people go to college with in-state tuition. O’Malley got it done in 2012. They wanted a raise in the national minimum wage. O’Malley’s last legislative priority as Maryland’s governor was raising the state’s minimum wage. He signed the increase into law in May 2014.
Democrats overwhelmingly supported legalizing same-sex marriage, which wasn’t even the law of the land when O’Malley signed the marriage-equality bill from the state legislature in 2012. And then he worked hard to get Maryland voters to approve marriage equality at the ballot box that November when it was challenged. Three years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was protected by the Constitution.
And yet, O’Malley couldn’t seal the deal. He dropped out after the Iowa caucuses. The passion among the party faithful for the ideas and ideals he championed didn’t transfer to him. Clinton got 49.9 percent of the Iowa caucus vote. Sanders got 49.6 percent. O’Malley? Just 0.6 percent.
With 22 other candidates in the 2020 race, de Blasio is going to need more than policies. He’s even going to need more than his willingness to take the fight to Trump. He’s going to have to tap into the party’s passion to win. He’s going to have to get the attention of a fickle party faithful that is now in swoon over South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg after swooning over former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke. And while doing that, de Blasio will have to chip away all those folks sticking by the candidacy of former vice president Joe Biden.
That’s a daunting task for anyone. And as we’ve seen before, trying to complete it from City Hall is doomed from the start. But, hey, Trump is president, so anything is possible.
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