At least one political leader thinks New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) could be a serious 2016 presidential contender — but it’s not someone you might expect.
New York State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox touted de Blasio’s presidential prospects in a conversation with Business Insider on Tuesday.
Cox said the staunchly progressive de Blasio might not even face an uphill battle for the Democratic nomination should the front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, drop out of the race.
“If Mrs. Clinton were to drop out, he’s the obvious candidate,” Cox predicted.
Cox was reacting to a Monday story in the New York Post where an unnamed operative claimed de Blasio advisers are hoping progressives launch a “Draft de Blasio” movement pushing him to run. Both the Post and Cox noted that de Blasio recently visited Iowa, a key primary state, and has not been willing to endorse Clinton despite his status as her former campaign manager.
“A non-endorsement of Mrs. Clinton was a political masterstroke on his part, again, to further his national ambitions,” Cox said, lamenting that the city would suffer with de Blasio’s absence. “His mind and part of his time is elsewhere for purely political purposes.”
De Blasio has repeatedly insisted his mind isn’t on anything but his 2017 reelection race. Reached for comment on Cox’s prediction, a de Blasio spokeswoman, Amy Spitalnick, forwarded interview transcripts from last week. In one of the interviews, de Blasio says he has “obviously” ruled out a 2016 presidential bid, but wouldn’t comment on the 2020 race.
“Nothing has changed,” since de Blasio gave those interviews, Spitalnick wrote in an email.
Cox told Business Insider that de Blasio’s denial should be expected. After all, Cox said, the mayor also insisted last year that he wasn’t running after Cox first reportedly predicted de Blasio would run.
“This is one of the more surreal moments I’ve experienced — when the State GOP chairman is telling you what I’m doing with my life,” Mr. de Blasio joked at the time, according to The New York Observer.
Cox wouldn’t have any of it.
“He’ll deny it. He denied it when I first put it out there,” he said. “He really pooh-poohed it.”
Many New York reporters and operatives mocked the Post report on Monday, noting de Blasio was elected to mayor less than a year-and-a-half ago and would presumably face numerous obstacles to the nomination. But Cox said de Blasio’s base among progressive and African-American voters gives him “a very powerful bloc in the Democratic Party.”
“He’s a gambler and he’s going for it. We’ll see how it works out. What I don’t like is the gambling with the welfare with the people of New York City,” Cox said. “But I have no doubt that he’s playing for it all.”
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