Iowa has a way of cutting large would-be-presidential egos down to size. Politicians competing (or thinking about competing) in the state’s first-in-the-nation caucus have to deal with arctic winter weather, backroads travel, and most of all, a landscape where people expect big-name pols to court them personally in their towns and even in their homes. So it’s rarely a cakewalk.
New York mayor and possible 2020 presidential candidate Bill de Blasio is the latest Big Deal to suffer some humiliation in Iowa, as the New York Post (which appears to be following him around in hopes of just this sort of development) reports:
Reporters from New York City wisely decided to wait out a snowstorm in Sioux City following an event at which de Blasio touted his progressive agenda to about two dozen residents on Saturday night.
But the mayor ignored the dangerous weather and insisted on heading south to Des Moines with his security detail.
Hizzoner made it less than halfway before calling it quits in Onawa, Iowa — estimated population 2,849 — to bed down in a Super 8 Motel, sources said.
And instead of enjoying some of the Hawkeye State’s award-winning barbecue or succulent steaks, he had to make do with a microwaved burrito.
The mayor’s gas-station burrito dinner reflected the generally poor luck, and poor attendance, he experienced on this lost weekend in Iowa, as CNN noted:
His two public events over the weekend drew smaller crowds than nearly any other contender, which can be only partially blamed on an unusually wicked mix of snow, wind and ice.
He had a “couple dozen” attendees at a meet-and-greet at a Sioux City bar on Saturday night, and then drew 50 to a hastily arranged Des Moines event sponsored by the Iowa Asian and Latino Coalition. It was duly noted by media that the perpetually tardy mayor was 11 minutes late to this second event, though the Post did report he was there on time and was in an adjoining room while his hosts searched for a recording of “New York, New York” to play.
The trip wasn’t totally a waste of time. De Blasio did score an interview with the state’s dominant media presence, the Des Moines Register, though the only news to come out of the interview involved his ruminations on the failed Amazon deal, which is probably not the mayor’s favorite subject right now. And he did get photographed sitting across a table from popular former Democratic governor Tom Vilsack at the iconic Drake Diner in Des Moines.
It definitely could have been worse for de Blasio. Last time he was in Iowa, in December of 2017, his New York troubles followed him in a more visceral way than a few questions in a newspaper interview, as Caroline Bankoff reported at the time:
Around a dozen officers from the city’s largest police union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, traveled to Des Moines to protest at the mayor’s appearance. The PBA and de Blasio have clashed frequently throughout his mayoralty, with the relationship reaching a low point in 2014, when the union encouraged members to turn their backs on him at the funerals of cops killed in the line of duty. They’re currently engaged in stalled contract talks … (Meanwhile, the Transport Workers Union, which has taken Governor Andrew Cuomo’s side in the fight over who to blame for the awful state of New York’s subways, paid for a full-page ad in the Des Moines Register declaring that “Phony Bill is no Bernie Sanders!”)
At this point, de Blasio probably should stay away from Iowa unless he’s willing to announce an actual candidacy. Serving as a source of amusement for campaign-trail and New York media alike is not a good reason for him to brave the difficult physical and political climate of this state. If nothing else, he should wait to return until summer and the Iowa State Fair, where the food may be no more nutritious than a gas-station burrito, but the crowds are reliably larger.