Commentary: The awesome luck of Bill de Blasio

By Will Rahn

/ CBS News

Some politicians, we’re reminded, are just lucky.

Take New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. His relationship with the press is almost Trumpian in its dysfunction. He feuds endlessly, pointlessly, and fruitlessly with the state’s governor, a fellow Democrat. His bid to become a progressive leader of nationwide stature fizzled embarrassingly during the 2016 primaries. He is, to put it mildly, less-than-beloved by the denizens of the city he governs.

And yet, he’s essentially a shoo-in for reelection in November.

Bill de Blasio More

More in Bill de Blasio

So much of life is timing, and de Blasio had that. In 2013, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s long reign came to an end due to term limits, de Blasio jumped into a crowded mayoral field that included heir apparent Christine Quinn and Anthony Weiner.

Bill de Blasio: We have a “democracy problem” in America

De Blasio, at the time, held the high profile yet mostly ceremonial position of public advocate, a job created in the early 1990s for reasons too dumb to get into. He started off as a virtual nonentity in the polls, but Weiner, the original front runner, self-immolated in spectacular fashion, and Quinn, the city council speaker, couldn’t gain traction in a city bored with the status quo. She also made an enemy of the city’s powerful animal rights advocates, who were looking to ban horse carriages in Central Park.

In stepped de Blasio, running to the left of his competitors at the start of a nationwide progressive resurgence. He had never had a job that really prepared him to be mayor; his two predecessors, Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani, both had reputations as efficient managers when they ran.

De Blasio, meanwhile, was best known for running Hillary Clinton’s successful campaign for Senate in 2000. That looks like a big accomplishment, or it does until you realize that that campaign was essentially run out of the Clinton White House by the president’s strategists, and that de Blasio was more of a front for the operation. Even in that extremely limited capacity, de Blasio was found lacking, and eventually pushed aside by the campaign.

But he had the right message: New York under Bloomberg, he argued, had done too much for the rich at the expense of everyone else. Taxes needed to be raised to pay for new services like universal pre-K and more affordable housing. Horse carriages must be banned. He won the Democratic primary handily, and in a left-leaning city tired of two decades of centrist rule, easily defeated his token Republican opponent.

What followed was a mess. But de Blasio, like Trump, is a consistent beneficiary of low expectations. Crime didn’t skyrocket, like his critics thought it would. There was not some great exodus of capital. The urban farms popping up in Brooklyn were not collectivized, and even the horse carriages stayed put. Comrade de Blaziovich, it turned out, was a lot more radical in theory than practice.

Still, de Blasio did not impress New Yorkers who were more-or-less happy with Bloomberg’s reign. The first big blizzard on his watch, back in 2014, was handled poorly – the wealthy Upper East Side, one of the few areas de Blasio didn’t dominate in the general election, went unplowed, which had rich New Yorkers complaining that they were being treated like kulaks.

His relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo quickly soured, and Albany was unwilling to back many of de Blasio’s big schemes, such as a new tax on millionaires. He showed up late seemingly everywhere he went, ditched events so he could go to the gym, was subjected to police protests that made news nationwide, and became a regular punching bag of the city’s big tabloids. Nothing he did seemed to work out quite right.

Along the way, de Blasio went to Iowa in an attempt to get Bernie Sanders and his former employer Hillary to compete for his endorsement (they didn’t, and he wound up sheepishly endorsing the latter to little fanfare). He also wound up entangled in two separate investigations into his shady fundraising practices, escaping with no indictment but much tut-tutting from the Manhattan D.A. As one prominent New York Democrat put it to me some months ago, de Blasio just keeps “tripping over his own d***.”

Maybe so, but luck was on his side. The economy was recovering. The city he inherited, so well administered by Bloomberg, kept humming. Trump won the White House, giving de Blasio a perfect foil in his fellow New Yorker. Centrist Democrats and Bloombergist liberals searched in vain for a primary challenger, but it was too tough an undertaking. For any candidate to be successful, they’d have to cut into de Blasio’s African-American base, and the candidates who could plausibly do that, most notably Brooklyn Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, all stayed on the sidelines. Too risky, they figured.

Now all that stands in de Blasio’s way is New York’s hapless GOP in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 6-to-1 margin. Assuming Jabba-esque supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis declines a run, their best bet is state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis. Should she get into the race and somehow win, Malliotakis would be the city’s first female mayor. Unfortunately for her, Malliotakis hails from Staten Island, a borough the rest of the city sees as something of a cross between a suburb and a colony.

And so de Blasio marches on, and is thought to harbor bigger political ambitions. He’s all but certain to win in November. The only question left is how much farther his luck can take him.

First published on April 20, 2017 / 6:00 AM

© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Will Rahn

Will Rahn is a political correspondent and managing director, politics, for CBS News Digital.

How big is Amazon's carbon footprint? Very, very big

The retailer's super-fast shipping and ubiquitous cloud-computing service have a high environmental cost, activists say

39M ago

Federal judge blocks Mississippi abortion law

District judge Carlton Reeves said in his ruling that the law "prevents a woman's free choice, which is central to personal dignity and autonomy"

updated 5M ago

Facebook's former security head wants Zuckerberg out

Alex Stamos said Zuckerberg should hire a replacement as chief executive—but disagreed with calls to break up company

updated 30M ago

Man gets life in prison for kidnapping teen, killing her parents

The Wisconsin man who killed a couple, kidnapped their daughter and held her captive for 88 days was sentenced Friday

1H ago

Risk of entrenched U.S.-China trade war seen rising

Experts worry the world's two biggest economies are plunging headlong into an economic cold war that could last years

1H ago

Federal judge blocks Mississippi abortion law

District judge Carlton Reeves said in his ruling that the law "prevents a woman's free choice, which is central to personal dignity and autonomy"

updated 5M ago

Risk of entrenched U.S.-China trade war seen rising

Experts worry the world's two biggest economies are plunging headlong into an economic cold war that could last years

1H ago

Trump defies Congress on Saudi arms sales

The announcement comes the same day the president confirmed he's approving sending 1,500 troops to the Middle East

1H ago

HHS proposes rollback of LGBTQ health care protections

The move would curtail access to critical care for many women, as well as gay and transgender patients including transition-related and reproductive care

3H ago

Trump leaves for Tokyo, orders more troops to Mideast

He's sparring with the House speaker and ordering more troops to the Middle East

3H ago

Risk of entrenched U.S.-China trade war seen rising

Experts worry the world's two biggest economies are plunging headlong into an economic cold war that could last years

1H ago

Small explosion in French city leaves several injured

The cause of the blast wasn't immediately known

2H ago

1 in 4 workers in U.S. get no paid vacation time or holidays

Compare that to Spain, where workers are guaranteed 25 paid vacation days and 14 paid holidays

2H ago

Trump to order 1,500 troops to Middle East

The order comes as Trump is departing for Japan over Memorial Day weekend

3H ago

Hopes dashed as Kenya upholds colonial era ban on gay sex

Recent court decisions had brought LGBT rights advocates rare hope of a major victory on a continent where 33 nations still outlaw homosexual sex

6H ago

"Jeopardy!" champ James Holzhauer could break $2 million tonight

TV game show champ is within $8,865 of the milestone as he tries to continue his epic run

3H ago

Highest-grossing movies of all time, ranked

What's the highest-grossing movie of all time? It might be one of your favorites

May 20 27 photos

Adam Levine is leaving "The Voice" after 16 seasons

Gwen Stefani will take Levine's spot in the big red chair

5H ago

Chef Mario Batali pleads not guilty to groping charges

The celebrity chef is accused of forcibly kissing and groping a woman at a Boston restaurant in 2017

6H ago

Bryan Cranston says "Network" is a warning about "ideological camps"

The Tony nominee says viewers should be open to receiving ideas and information from outside their "ideological camp"

7H ago

How big is Amazon's carbon footprint? Very, very big

The retailer's super-fast shipping and ubiquitous cloud-computing service have a high environmental cost, activists say

39M ago

Facebook's former security head wants Zuckerberg out

Alex Stamos said Zuckerberg should hire a replacement as chief executive—but disagreed with calls to break up company

updated 30M ago

Facebook's fake accounts doubled in 6 months

About 5% of its users — some 120 million accounts — are fake, according to new estimates from the social network

May 23

SpaceX pins high hopes on Starlink satellites

SpaceX plans multiple Starlink launches in 2019 to build out space-based internet network

19H ago

Is it time for Alexa and Siri to have a "MeToo moment"?

United Nations report says AI technology powering popular personal voice assistants has gender bias baked into the programming code

May 23

How big is Amazon's carbon footprint? Very, very big

The retailer's super-fast shipping and ubiquitous cloud-computing service have a high environmental cost, activists say

39M ago

Plastic hose found inside dead dolphin's stomach

Another dolphin​ with plastic in its stomach washed ashore in Florida

2H ago

NASA awards contract for future moon station

NASA is moving ahead with plans to send astronauts back to the moon by 2024

May 23

SpaceX pins high hopes on Starlink satellites

SpaceX plans multiple Starlink launches in 2019 to build out space-based internet network

19H ago

Giant asteroid with its own moon to pass by Earth this weekend

The asteroid will be visible until May 27

May 23

Federal judge blocks Mississippi abortion law

District judge Carlton Reeves said in his ruling that the law "prevents a woman's free choice, which is central to personal dignity and autonomy"

updated 5M ago

Colorado first state to cap soaring insulin prices

Drug's price has doubled in five years, so state is capping co-payments for diabetics with private insurance at $100 a month

2H ago

What does "best if used by" on packaged food really mean?

The FDA backs an industry-supported phrase that addresses food quality, but says nothing about safety

3H ago

HHS proposes rollback of LGBTQ health care protections

The move would curtail access to critical care for many women, as well as gay and transgender patients including transition-related and reproductive care

3H ago

McKinsey, JPMorgan Chase drop Purdue Pharma amid opioid scrutiny

Companies are distancing themselves from the Oxycontin maker and its founding family amid thousands of lawsuits

7H ago

How big is Amazon's carbon footprint? Very, very big

The retailer's super-fast shipping and ubiquitous cloud-computing service have a high environmental cost, activists say

39M ago

Facebook's former security head wants Zuckerberg out

Alex Stamos said Zuckerberg should hire a replacement as chief executive—but disagreed with calls to break up company

updated 30M ago

Risk of entrenched U.S.-China trade war seen rising

Experts worry the world's two biggest economies are plunging headlong into an economic cold war that could last years

1H ago

Colorado first state to cap soaring insulin prices

Drug's price has doubled in five years, so state is capping co-payments for diabetics with private insurance at $100 a month

2H ago

1 in 4 workers in U.S. get no paid vacation time or holidays

Compare that to Spain, where workers are guaranteed 25 paid vacation days and 14 paid holidays

2H ago

Man gets life in prison for kidnapping teen, killing her parents

The Wisconsin man who killed a couple, kidnapped their daughter and held her captive for 88 days was sentenced Friday

1H ago

Small explosion in French city leaves several injured

The cause of the blast wasn't immediately known

2H ago

How to watch "NCIS: The Cases they Can't Forget"

The series, hosted by Rocky Carroll, looks at some of the biggest cases handled by the real-life agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service

2H ago

Police say missing 4-year-old girl was likely killed

Davis was reported missing earlier this month by her mother's former fiance, Derion Vence

2H ago

Fiance pleads not guilty in presumed death of Colorado mom

Investigators say Patrick Frazee urged a woman he was having an affair with to kill Berreth, then killed her himself

5H ago

NASA awards contract for future moon station

NASA is moving ahead with plans to send astronauts back to the moon by 2024

May 23

SpaceX pins high hopes on Starlink satellites

SpaceX plans multiple Starlink launches in 2019 to build out space-based internet network

19H ago

Costa Rican meteorite is rare "extraterrestrial mud ball"

"It formed in an environment free of life, then was preserved in the cold and vacuum of space for 4.56 billion years, and then dropped in Costa Rica"

May 21

High winds scrub SpaceX launch of internet relay satellites

While disappointing, SpaceX was taking no chances with launch of its heaviest payload to date

May 15

NASA wants to send first woman to the moon

NASA is gearing up to send American astronauts back to the moon by 2024, and it hopes to include a woman for the first time. The Trump administration has asked Congress to approve an additional $1.6 billion for NASA's budget. CBS News space consultant Bill Harwood joined CBSN to discuss the ambitious plans.

May 14 04:35

Highest-grossing movies of all time, ranked

What's the highest-grossing movie of all time? It might be one of your favorites

May 20 27 photos

Britain's royal great-grandchildren

Prince Harry's new baby Archie is the eighth great-grandchild for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip

May 8 9 photos

Met Gala 2019: Red carpet looks

See what all your favorite celebrities wore to fashion's biggest night

May 6 80 photos

Dale Pike murder: Evidence photos in the case against Enrico Forti

In 1998, Dale Pike came to Miami to discuss a business deal with Enrico Forti — the next day he was dead, and Forti was the prime suspect

May 3 17 photos

Worst movie sequels since 2000, ranked

These are the lowest-rated sequels this century, according to Metacritic's rankings

Apr 30 51 photos

Popular

Man sentenced in Jayme Closs case

Jake Patterson of Wisconsin will spend the rest of his life behind bars for kidnapping 13-year-old Jayme Closs and killing her parents. Jamie Yuccas is outside the courtroom.

updated 14M ago 16:07

Testing VR to spot early signs of Alzheimer's

Researchers at the University of Cambridge are testing whether virtual reality technology could be used to help detect early signs of Alzheimer's disease. BBC News correspondent Richard Westcott explains.

updated 14M ago 02:30

Harriet Tubman on $20 bill to be delayed

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said plans to update the $20 bill with an image of abolitionist Harriet Tubman will be delayed until after President Trump leaves office. CBSN has reaction from Barbara Ortiz Howard, who founded the "Women on 20s" campaign.

updated 32M ago 01:35

CEOs made bank last year

The typical CEO in 2018 took home $12 million, but many received multiples of that. A new survey shows it would take 158 years for the typical worker at most big companies to make what their CEO did last year.

1H ago 01:20

Jayme Closs' kidnapper awaits sentencing

Jake Patterson, the Wisconsin man convicted of kidnapping 13-year-old Jayme Closs and killing her parents, will be sentenced today. CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas joins CBSN from the courthouse in Barron, Wisconsin, with the latest.

4H ago 03:26

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here