Last week, candidates in a televised debate for New York City public advocate took turns whacking Mayor Bill de Blasio's potential candidacy for president.
"Delusional," said Assemb. Ron Kim (D-Queens). "Not qualified," said Assemb. Michael Blake (D-Bronx). The other five on the stage — including only one Republican — sounded more or less as jaded, perhaps like the citizens in general.
Everyone with a sense of New York political history knows that its modern mayors have a special way of not winning higher office.
Mayor John Lindsay switched from Republican to Democrat just to seek the presidency in 1972. He got nowhere — that is, about as far as former Mayor Rudy Giuliani went in the GOP primaries in 2008. Ed Koch tried jumping from mayor to governor in 1982 and lost the Democratic primary.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an ex-Republican, twice floated a White House run and balked. This makes him not an also-ran, but an also-didn't-run.
Still, Bloomberg is getting more attention time as a potential Democratic contender. One of the joke questions this generates is whether Bloomberg will look to serve a full three terms as president.
Of course, presidents are limited in the Constitution to two terms. But so were New York mayors until Bloomberg got the charter temporarily changed for himself in 2009 under the stated rationale of a fiscal emergency.
De Blasio finishes his second and final term under the law at the end of 2021. Would he be considering buying this presidential lottery ticket if he were not already disengaging from City Hall? That's academic.
President Donald Trump, a real estate heir, had plenty of detractors in the city even before losing the total five-borough vote to ex-Sen. Hillary Clinton by an eye-popping 79 percent to 19 percent in 2016.
Deep skepticism about your local celebrity is not purely a Big Apple phenomenon.
For various reasons Bill Clinton in Arkansas, Jesse Jackson in Chicago, Kirsten Gillibrand in Albany, Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, Jerry Brown in California, Ted Cruz in Texas and Chris Christie in New Jersey — plus many more — prompted their share of rolled eyes when they announced for president.
De Blasio has been making the rounds of national media outlets, progressive echo chambers and out-of-state audiences. He told CNN last month when asked about 2020: "You never know what life brings."
New York magazine quoted a person "close to City Hall" as saying, “Who knows what the field looks like two or four or six months from now. I think if the dynamic shifts, he could take a closer look at it.”
Given the history, this kind of deniability might prove a handy thing for any mayor to hold onto.