He’s entrenched toward the rear in fund-raising totals. He rejects the validity of the various polls showing him at zero percent.
And he also acknowledges that he will probably not qualify for the third Democratic presidential debate next month.
Yet Mayor Bill de Blasio refuses to “accept the premise” of questions about the wisdom of his continued candidacy, even as other candidates who shared his political standing, like Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington and the former Colorado governor, John Hickenlooper, dropped out of the crowded Democratic field this month.
Instead, the mayor persists in the belief that he has a story worth telling — and that his stewardship in New York City should be viewed as a way to cast light on how the nation can recover from a Trump White House.
On Sunday, Mr. de Blasio may get his last best chance to tell his story, when he appears on a one-hour town hall on CNN at 7 p.m. in New York; Ana Cabrera will serve as the moderator, and 100 likely primary voters from the region will make up the audience.
June 14, 2019
Jim Crounse, a senior adviser to Mr. de Blasio’s campaign, called the town hall a “big opportunity” for the mayor, who has already hosted 65 town-hall style meetings during his six years as mayor of the country’s largest city.
“Unlike the debates, where quick responses were required, a town hall format will allow the mayor to tell his story, articulate his message and interact with people,” Mr. Crounse said.
But even if Democratic voters approve of Mr. de Blasio’s vision, there is evidence that they do not believe that he should be the candidate to execute it.
“Exposure is not his problem,” said Douglas Muzzio, a public affairs professor at Baruch College. “You can turn people off with exposure as well as turn them on.”
The mayor participated in the first two Democratic debates, and he has made regular appearances on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN and on other nationally televised programs.
He has already tried to grab voter attention by making President Trump his foil. He recently spent 40 minutes speaking with one of the president’s strongest supporters in the media, Fox News host Sean Hannity, in a raucous televised interview.
In recent days, Mr. de Blasio has sought to capitalize on his police commissioner’s decision to fire the police officer whose chokehold led to the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed man whose repeated “I can’t breathe” pleas helped galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement.
On CNN, the mayor called it a “never-again moment.” On MSNBC, he said the episode taught him that the Justice Department is not “dispensing justice anymore,” and that city police forces need to adopt de-escalation strategies. And at his news conference hours after the decision was announced, the mayor paraphrased Martin Luther King Jr., saying we should use the Garner death to try to “transform the suffering into progress.”
Still, Mr. de Blasio reported just over 6,600 donors on his last campaign finance filing and he remains at 1 percent or less in most polls, including a recent CNN poll. A poll in May from Quinnipiac University found that the mayor had the highest unfavorability rating among the Democratic candidates at 45 percent.
“I don’t know if he’s turning people off, but he’s not turning them on,” Professor Muzzio said.
And when poor weather forced the mayor to cancel a trip to a labor conference in Iowa on Wednesday, a technical glitch turned his video call into a made-for-social media moment: The pitch of his voice was altered into “Alvin and the Chipmunks” territory.
Fellow Democrats from New York say that the mayor must find some way to use the CNN town hall to give voters a reason to donate to his campaign, and boost his poll numbers ever so slightly.
“It’s going to be a test of whether or not he can say something that is so newsworthy that it can give him the same bump that a good debate would, since it doesn’t look like he’ll make the next debate stage,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, a former presidential candidate and host of a show on MSNBC.
“I would never call one thing a make-or-break moment,” Mr. Sharpton added. “But I can’t see how, even after this, he has an easy path forward.”
If Mr. de Blasio was in need of a role model, he could refer to March 10, the date of Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s CNN town hall. Mr. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., was a relative unknown before his CNN appearance; afterward, he received hundreds of thousands of donors and a deluge of attention.
“It was the singular most game-changing moment on the campaign,” said Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for the Buttigieg campaign who formerly worked for Mr. de Blasio’s first mayoral campaign. “Overnight, it launched him from being an unknown quantity to being in the hunt with U.S. senators and a former vice president in the polls.”
Ms. Smith’s free advice: Prepare, but don’t overprepare. You don’t want too many answers that seem scripted. Be clear about what you are bringing to the table that the Democratic Party and the country need.
“The stage is yours for an hour. There are no bells and whistles, no other candidate to parry with,” Ms. Smith said. “There’s no one to hide behind.”
Even if Mr. de Blasio should falter, his candidacy may continue simply because he lacks the immediate political alternatives that some of his peers have. Mr. Hickenlooper announced that he is running for the Senate in Colorado. Steve Bullock, the Democratic governor of Montana, who will appear in his own CNN town hall that will air just before Mr. de Blasio’s, is also doing poorly in the polls, and Democratic leaders have urged him to drop out and run for the Senate.
If Mr. de Blasio abandons the presidential trail, he will simply return to New York, where he will serve out the last 16 months of his mayoralty, before vacating the office because of term limits. At the moment, that prospect seems far from the mayor’s mind.
As long as he has a chance to speak with voters, “anything can happen because we are in the age of social media,” he said on Thursday, echoing comments from the previous week.
“I think things move now on social media that a day or two can make a huge amount of difference,” he said then.
“The only thing I’d say to you is,” he added, “as more candidates drop out, there’s more opportunity for everyone who remains.”
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