A few days later, I float the Klein-for-mayor trial balloon with Jack Welch, and he offers an immediate endorsement: “If he fixes the schools, he can own the city.”
The reality, of course, is more vexing for whatever City Hall fantasies Klein may be nurturing. Though the appearance of progress in the schools has helped Bloomberg, Klein is hardly basking in any warm effusion of public sentiment: According to the Quinnipiac survey, just 40 percent of New Yorkers approve of his performance, versus 33 percent who disapprove. Meanwhile, his brazen treatment of Weingarten has likely earned him an enemy for life—and that alone might be enough to doom him in a future Democratic primary. It might even be enough to complicate his aspiration to be attorney general.
But Klein believes that he is on the right side of the issue—and the right side of history. And although he’d never say so, he believes that, in the end, the city and his party will come to embrace him for what he has undertaken. He believes, in a way, that they will have no other choice; the results will be that unequivocal. Call this vanity, call it arrogance, call it supreme self-confidence. It’s the quality that makes Klein so insufferable to so many—and so relentless in pursuing his objectives.
It also fuels a sense of optimism that borders on pathological. When I ask his reaction to his dismal poll numbers, Klein just smiles and shrugs. “I thought, Wow, that’s a lot of people—three quarters of the people in the city actually know who I am!”