In a primary field already crowded with also-rans and outsized egos, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio - who has been aggressively courting the limelight during trips to Iowa and South Carolina instead of pleading with Jeff Bezos and fixing the subway - has earned a dubious distinction of being the candidate who literally nobody - not even his friends and staff - thinks should run.
To wit, Politico interviewed more than three dozen friends and staff who purportedly know De Blasio well or have worked with him in the past (or present), and their responses to the prospect of a De Blasio candidacy ranged from bemusement to outright ridicule.
One friend of Hizzoner said that, for De Blasio, running for president would be "idiotic." Another was even more blunt, rejecting De Blasio's plans as "fucking insane."
Out of all the people who spoke with Politico, only two said De Blasio should run, and most said he probably wouldn't go through with it. Though oddly enough, when confronted with this information, the mayor brushed it aside and said something to the effect of "they just don't understand," which even a kind appraiser might admit sounded...a bit deluded.
It’s a stark contrast to the typical dynamics of a presidential exploration, where aides and allies tend to egg on the potential candidate.
Indeed, the strongest advocate for a de Blasio candidacy seems to be de Blasio himself. Gone is the stable of trusted consultants whose advice he once relied on so heavily that he designated them de facto city employees during his first term. In their place are two City Hall aides volunteering their spare time to work on his explorations, and his wife, Chirlane McCray.
"I really appreciate everyone’s views, but I don’t know they can see things the way Chirlane and I see them, in terms of what we need to do with our lives, what we feel is the right thing to do, but also how we analyze the political circumstance - because it’s been kind of a life’s work for both of us," de Blasio told POLITICO in a recent Gracie Mansion interview.
“I assure you I had a lot of folks who were friends and allies warmly put their arm around my shoulder and tell me what a crazy idea it was to run for Public Advocate, what a crazy idea it was to run for mayor,” he said.
De Blasio said that the only person he needs on his side is his wife, Chirlane McCray. But even she admitted during a recent interview that maybe seeking the Democratic nomination probably wasn't a good idea.
In a recent interview for POLITICO’s Women Rule podcast, she said that while she thinks her husband would "be a great president," she added "the timing is not exactly right."
McCray elaborated on her comments in a follow-up interview, saying "This is a very big undertaking. He has a big demanding job and I see closer than anyone the time and the work it takes to run this city."
In another justification that verged on delusion, De Blasio cast himself during an interview with Politico as a kind of proto-Bernie Sanders, saying his victory in the 2014 NYC mayoral primary, where he went from being a dark horse to the unexpected winner after two frontrunners (one of whom, ironically enough, was Anthony Weiner) were felled by scandals.
De Blasio has a few rationales for a candidacy: He’s implemented policies that are now sacrosanct to the left wing of the Democratic party, such as universal pre-kindergarten and paid sick days for private employers. He also believes he personally embodied the economic populism that coursed through the 2016 election and tried to alert Hillary Clinton to it, even if no one was listening.
"My election is clearly an indicator of that gathering storm that then came forth nationally, I think, in the form of Bernie’s campaign," de Blasio said. Besides, he said, he has the distinction of running a city of 8.6 million people.
"That old truism, second-toughest job in America, there’s some truth to that," de Blasio said, quoting former New York City mayor John Lindsay, who also tried and failed at a bid for president while in office.
While it's true De Blasio has scored one or two big policy victories with universal pre-K and paid sick days, he has largely failed in his promise to combat economic inequality in New York (it's gotten worse during his tenure), meanwhile homelessness has worsened to near-crisis levels and crime, which had been falling for years, has recently started rising again.
But politics aside, perhaps the biggest obstacle to a De Blasio candidacy, according to one former City Hall aide, is his personality. Aides in turn described him as self-righteous, off-putting, condescending and arrogant.
"The empirical measurements of the city are good, but he can’t get off the ground because nobody likes the guy," one former City Hall aide said. "He is stubborn about doing things that he feels entitled to do, but don’t do him any favors politically and don’t make a lot of sense."
And after torching his relationship with the Clinton's in a bid to burnish his progressive credentials - only to be mostly ignored during the most recent surge of left-wind populism - De Blasio has few allies left to help him along.
But maybe that's for the best.