Mayor Bill de Blasio’s quixotic campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for president is officially over.
“After several months of campaigning, I have reached the point where I feel I have contributed all I can to this Democratic primary. Today, I’m ending my campaign for the presidency,” de Blasio wrote in an op-ed published by NBC News.
He called campaigning a “profound experience” and said that it showed him “America in full —not as it appears on Twitter and cable news, where we’re constantly shown a country hamstrung by our differences and unable to tackle the problems we face.” Now, he must return to running America’s largest city.
De Blasio’s campaign was widely viewed as a long shot from the start. When he announced his candidacy on May 16, he entered a crowded field that was already dominated by big names like Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. A Quinnipiac poll from early April—a month before he announced his candidacy—found that 76 percent of registered NYC voters believed he should not run for president, a “rare moment of unity” for city dwellers, as one polling analyst told the Wall Street Journal.
Despite a strong showing in the first debate in June—Buzzfeed News ran a story the next day with the headline “Bill De Blasio…Actually Maybe Knows What He’s Doing”—de Blasio failed to live up to that performance in subsequent public appearances. He struggled to connect with potential voters, and consistently failed to poll at higher than 1 percent throughout the summer. Only 376,000 viewers tuned in for an August 25 town hall on CNN that featured the mayor, and he did not qualify for the September Democratic debate.
By early September, the once-bullish mayor seemed more realistic about his presidential prospects: “I think the logical thing to say is I’m going to go and try and make the October debates and if I can, that’s a good reason to keep going forward,” he said at an unrelated press conference on September 4. “If I can’t, I think it’s really tough to conceive of continuing.”
In an early-morning appearance on Morning Joe to announce the end of his run, he called campaigning “an extraordinary experience,” but acknowledged that “at the same time, I’ve contributed all I can to this primary election, and it’s clearly not my time.”
De Blasio’s absence at home, meanwhile, did not go unnoticed during the months he was on the campaign trail. The New York Post recently reported that the mayor spent just seven hours at City Hall in May, the month he launched his campaign. (The mayor’s office says it was actually 11 hours.) Joke “missing” posters with de Blasio’s visage on them covered the city in August, asking people to “tell him to immediately return to New York and do the job he was elected to do.”
And his seeming indifference to governing the city of New York became apparent as the myriad challenges commonly faced by the mayor of America’s biggest city piled up. In response to a sharp uptick in cyclist deaths, the mayor’s office unveiled a plan to expand the city’s bike network that some activists viewed as too little, too late. (His later comments about potentially requiring cyclists to wear helmets or register for licenses also prompted a backlash.)
The biggest test of whether he could campaign and govern effectively was most notably tested during a massive blackout on July 13 that left much of Midtown, and more than 70,000 New Yorkers, in the dark. De Blasio was campaigning in Iowa when the lights went out in Manhattan, and initially told CNN he was “weighing his options” on whether or not to come back. He ultimately decided to return to the city, but did not make it back until Sunday, well after power was restored. His late return prompted backlash from the press, city residents, and some elected officials. “They say that 90 percent of life is showing up,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson later told the New York Post when asked about the mayor’s absence. “Well, 100 percent of being an elected official is showing up.”
Now that de Blasio has suspended his campaign, a big question looms: What happens for the next two years at City Hall? “[T]he mayor could resolve to burnish his legacy by recommitting himself to his job of running New York City,” Politico wrote in August. Or, “[o]n the other side lies premature lame-duckery.”
Certainly, he has his work cut out for him. The challenges the mayor and the city faced at the start of his campaign—an affordable housing crisis, a crumbling public housing system, questions into the effectiveness of his administration’s marquee programs, a homelessness crisis that has more than 60,000 people sleeping in shelters every night—are ones that must still be addressed. The next two years will be make or break for his administration—and his legacy as mayor.
In his NBC News op-ed, de Blasio said he plans to recommit himself to the job New Yorkers elected him to and work to implement policy initiatives like paid personal time off and the city’s Green New Deal, while also “help[ing] ensure our party continues to be remade in the image of the activism I’ve seen all across this nation.”
“Throughout history, New York City has often performed a vital role for this nation: When the country threatens to lurch in a more divisive direction, we’ve always been a beacon moving towards a more hopeful future,” the piece reads. “That’s why fighting for working people and ensuring that New York City remains the vanguard of progressivism will continue to be my missions.”