We may be witnessing the final stages of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s presidential campaign.
The big man indicated as much on Wednesday, when he noted during an unrelated news conference that it would be “really tough to conceive of continuing” if he doesn’t qualify for the October Democratic debate stage.
But the signs of an ending have been apparent for a while. He didn’t make the upcoming September debates, or appear in Wednesday’s CNN town hall on climate change featuring top 2020 hopefuls. He has been cycling through the same perfunctory ads on Facebook showing him shaking hands on a ferry and boosting universal pre-K. Even his appearance on liberal-favorite podcast "Pod Save America," which he seemed to be looking forward to, had overtones of a slog to the finish.
“It was a fascinating conversation,” said host Jon Lovett dryly in the opening. “He’s very tall."
That conversation, posted Wednesday, went on for more than an hour and de Blasio made the exasperated point that he’s a big city mayor who’s actually run something large and complicated and achieved tangible breakthroughs like universal pre-K, in addition to having many of the views of the Warrens and Bernies of the world.
“God bless the legislators, but I bring something different to the equation," he said, not incorrectly.
Later, in a minor key: “Boy have I been down in polls before."
But in the half year or so of his candidacy the polls didn’t shift much above numero uno. And while back in 2013 scandal and renewed scrutiny eventually helped pull down the mayoral opponents ahead of him one by one, that hasn’t happened with the 2020 presidential frontrunners. He hasn’t been able to break through the crowd. And scrutiny of his own has not been particularly kind.
See, for example, the New York Post story this week about de Blasio being at City Hall just seven hours in May, the month he launched his presidential bid. His team says it was actually 11.
It’s the kind of thing that makes many voters throw up their hands, even if many know that the city’s chief executive is probably working from home and the car — and Iowa. But clearly his attention will inevitably be split. At least for the next couple weeks.
This campaign endgame (if that’s what it is) for de Blasio 2020 has echoes in the last days of presidential ambition for another tall New York City mayor.
John Lindsay, who migrated from Republican to Democrat, still came across as basically a communist in parts of the country distant from blue New York during his 1972 run. Hence Florida radio callers debating whether patrician Lindsay would name Fidel Castro as ambassador to the United Nations (like much of Fox pundits’ reflexive criticisms of de Blasio, it doesn’t make much sense now, either).
By the end, Lindsay was having a tough time getting significant crowds (premonitions of de Blasio talking to a handful) other than a dairy farmer or two he’d call his “good friend Joe” in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
Then there was the predictable blowback at home that de Blasio has weathered from the Post and police unions and local poll respondents and, probably, those “cocktail party” attendees he often decries. For Lindsay it came from the likes of Brooklyn Democratic leader Meade Esposito (later convicted for influence peddling) advising him to come home and “straighten out” NYC.
Eventually, of course, Lindsay did come home but future national-stage political success eluded him, so that the New York he hoped would be a launching pad became his legacy.