De Blasio’s Done, and the Joke’s on New York City

Molly Jong-Fast
Stephanie Keith

The presidential campaign of a leader who’d inadvertently killed a groundhog lived up to its low expectations before ending with a whimper on Friday. Some might have thought that Mayor de Blah Blah’s unpopularity at home would have made him think twice about running for the highest elected office in the country, but reality has never been a problem for the man with “the dubious distinction of being the single most unpopular political figure in the entirety of New York State.”

In August, a Siena College poll showed that he was less popular in deep-blue New York State than Donald Trump. I mean 76 percent of New Yorkers didn’t want him to run for president. Vox did an explainer called “Why Bill de Blasio is so hated, explained,” while 538 added, helpfully, “probably de Blasio’s biggest problem was simply that Democratic voters did not like him, which is quite an unusual place to be among voters of one’s own party.” 

But luckily for those of us who enjoy political hijinks, he persisted and hilarity ensued.  

Bill de Blasio’s Not Running for President. He’s Running for Profit.

In June, de Blasio went to Miami and quoted Che Guevara to a group including Cubans at least in part due to the murderous dictatorship of Che’s good friend Fidel Castro. As outrage and mockery descended, the mayor apologized, using the highly believably excuse of ignorance: “I did not know the phrase I used in Miami today was associated with Che Guevara & I did not mean to offend anyone who heard it that way. I certainly apologize for not understanding that history.”  You know, if you’re going to preach a certain ideology it might be useful to know its history, so you at least know the parts not to say out loud.  

In August, the guy once mocked for eating a slice of pizza with a fork did his best to wolf down a corn dog at the Iowa state fair and ended up looking like a character from a 1970s made for TV movie. Candidates have often gotten into trouble trying to eat things and not look ridiculous but it’s bad when you’re eating incompetence eclipses your campaigning incompetence. Grub Street proclaimed, “De Blasio may rank 21st in fundraising among Democratic presidential candidates, but he’s now undoubtedly No. 1 in uncomfortable corn-dog-eating poses.”

And then there was de Blasio’s quixotic quest for media attention. While popular presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren refuses to go on Fox news calling it a “hate-for-profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracists,”  Bill—who’s gone on for years about the exceptional evil of the Murdoch media machine—lost his qualms as he ran for president, smiling almost maniacally across 41 minutes with Sean Hannity and then spending 26 more with Tucker Carlson.     

Like everything else, those appearances did nothing for him in the polls, as the only people who seemed to care about his run were the New Yorkers—including police unions and police reformers—following him around the country to protest, showing up at the campaign appearances that locals mostly ignored and even inside the arena on debate nights to shout at him.  

But perhaps the most problematic thing about the candidate with the wealth redistribution message—“there’s too much money—it’s just in the wrong hands”—was the he was funded by, you guessed it, the wealthy. De Blasio “had difficulty amassing a sufficient campaign war chest—despite hitting up New York City donors who have business dealings with his administration.” While New Yorkers who know all about the mayor than musing about the climate crisis and then taking a daily chauffeured SUV ride to work out 11 miles away from Gracie Mansion in Park Slope, Americans were getting their first taste to a Che-quoting presidential candidate bankrolled by a small group of developers and wired unions trying to get in good with City Hall. There’s much more: his shady overlapping state and federal PACs that appear custom built to evade campaign limits were paired with desperate attempts to stimulate people power by asking (generally conservative) Orthodox Jews in the city to give him just a dollar each to help him make the debates, as small dollar donors stayed away in droves.

But don’t feel too bad for the long-shot presidential candidate that New Yorkers love to hate and the rest of the country just ignored, as the would-be candidate of the 99 percent never made it to one percent in the polls. “News of him dropping out has already garnered roughly 84,000 mentions in roughly four hours, surpassing his highest media moments while a candidate,” reports Josh Ginsberg of the San Francisco-based media analytics firm Zignal Labs

The “De Blasio for Resident” signs have carried the day, and the joke may just be on New Yorkers: His presidential dream is over, but the punchline mayor remains. 

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