New Presidential Candidate Bill de Blasio Shouldn’t Put All His Chips on Florida

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio jumped into the very crowded race for the Democratic nomination on Thursday despite little support in key states including Iowa and New Hampshire. While there are plenty of ties between Florida and the Big Apple, de Blasio would be well advised not to put too much hope for the Sunshine State.

Now in his second term as mayor, de Blasio is just the latest Democrat trying to appeal to the left of his party’s base, joining the likes of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and plenty of other candidates trying to offer an alternative to former Vice President Joe Biden.

So far, there doesn’t appear to be much of a demand for a de Blasio campaign. He lags in low single digits in national polls and in surveys of early caucus and primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Despite his liberal record, even with his own party, de Blasio has some of the highest unfavorable numbers among the Democratic presidential candidates. Nor do the early states–Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada and even California–really look like good fits for de Blasio. Still, de Blasio has to do well there since he’ll be trying to hold off other candidates like U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, to protect his home turf.

With the ties between Florida and New York City, there will be talk of course that the mayor should turn his attention to the Sunshine State. That’s simply a bad idea. Florida doesn’t hold its primary until March 17, well over a month after Iowa and New Hampshire have their say and after Super Tuesday, too late in the process to launch a campaign.

History also shows de Blasio should not put all his chips on Florida even with the close ties between the state and New York. Back in 1968, then Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, R-NY, tried to make a play for Florida against former Vice President Richard Nixon. Rockefeller even enlisted Gov. Claude Kirk, R-Fla., to help nail down Florida. It was a disaster since the rest of the Florida delegation backed Nixon who went onto the nomination. Kirk only ended up dividing the Florida GOP and went down to defeat in his bid for a second term in 1970.

In 1972, New York City Mayor John Lindsay, a newly minted Democrat, tried for his party’s presidential nomination. Lindsay ignored New Hampshire to put all his marbles on Florida which held its primary a week later but this backfired badly. Despite his focus on Florida, Lindsay took only 6.5 percent of the vote and ended up in fifth place, killing his presidential aspirations.

More recently, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani downplayed Iowa and New Hampshire in his 2008 presidential bid to focus on Florida. While Florida held its primary earlier than usual, after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, Giuliani simply couldn’t compete with top candidates U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass. When the smoke cleared, Giuliani placed a distant third in Florida and he quickly bowed out of the race.

Despite the ties between New York and Florida, the Sunshine State simply isn’t a good launching pad for presidential candidates from the Empire State. If de Blasio is going to be a factor in this race–and that’s a big if–he’s going to have to do well early and ignore Florida to concentrate on Iowa, New Hampshire and other early states.

 

Kevin Derby wrote this analysis. He can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.

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