Mayor Bill de Blasio was already on the campaign trail Friday, making his pitch to rural Iowan voters one day after announcing his run for president.
He campaigned in the Hawkeye State to kick off a weekend of stumping with potential voters. Iowa is a key state since its caucus is the first nominating contest for the White House race. The caucus is set for February 3, 2020.
"It's all about working people, and it doesn't matter if you're in Gowrie, Iowa, or if you're in New York City," de Blasio said when asked how he would appeal to rural voters. "In the end, people should trust people who's already done it."
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The mayor spent the day trying to talk to voters and campaigning in the countryside instead of in Iowan cities. He toured an ethanol plant in the morning and met with small family farmers to hear their concerns about agriculture before taking part in a mental health roundtable.
Ethanol is a fuel for vehicles based on corn, which is a major crop in the Hawkeye State. Many voters have called for the government to subsidize corn. It's an issue that's traditionally been make-or-break for presidential candidates as they come through Iowa.
De Blasio hasn't usually needed to discuss rural issues in New York City, but any presidential candidate needs to be well-versed if they hope to win over Iowa voters.
"Today's been a chance to hear from Iowans the struggles they face and the challenges they face," the mayor said at another news conference.
But the mayor didn't draw large crowds Friday. He toured the plant with an employee and former United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and only 10 farmers met with de Blasio later in the day.
The news media was kept out of the mental health roundtable that he and First Lady Chirlane McCray held with the mayor of Des Moines. We asked how many people attended, but were not given a response.
The mayor is slated to end his day in Sioux City, where he will speak at a Democratic Party fundraiser. We are hold that at least two protesters will show up. The two demonstrators, public housing residents, flew all the way from New York to confront the mayor on his record on public housing. They feel he's abandoned New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents at a critical time.
Meanwhile, when I asked de Blasio's campaign treasurer how much money the mayor raised in the first 24 hours of his presidential campaign, he said the campaign would only release fundraising figures at the next required filing date.
It was a similar response when we asked de Blasio's political action committee, the Fairness PAC, for its fundraising totals; the PAC will not confirm its fundraising and spending totals until the summer.
De Blasio is entering the Democratic primary near the bottom of the pack when it comes to money. Former Vice President Joe Biden raised more than $6 million in the first 24 hours of his campaign. California Sen. Kamala Harris pulled in $1.5 million. De Blasio has been raising money for his Fairness PAC, but the numbers are small compared to what's needed for a national campaign. His PAC raised $610,574 in 2018 and spent $559,201.
The number of donors a candidate has matters as well, at least when it comes to qualifying for primary debates. To qualify for next month's Democratic debate, a candidate needs to receive at least one percent in three qualifying polls or raise money from 65,000 donors. The mayor has not done either.
THE STRUGGLE WITH NAME RECOGNITION
I have been following the mayor and found so far that de Blasio is struggling with name recognition in Iowa.
A Monmouth University poll conducted last month found Iowa voters evenly split on the mayor.
But 39 percent said they had no opinion of him and 12 percent had never heard of him. The poll was conducted before the mayor actually declared himself a presidential candidate.
De Blasio will to South Carolina on Saturday and will spend the rest of the weekend in that state.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT NEW YORK
Meantime, one of the big questions about the mayor's run for president is how much his campaign will distract him from his main job?
De Blasio may be a lame duck, but he still has two-and-a-half years left in his term. The mayor claims he will be deeply involved in running the city even when he's on the road.
But some other elected officials are skeptical and worry about the city having an absentee mayor.
"I think we have to ensure that we as a city are functioning and all of the issues that New Yorkers care about are being addressed," said City Councilman Donovan Richards.
"Serving as mayor of the City of New York is the second toughest job in our nation and New Yorkers require a mayor who is laser focused on the issues affecting our city," said State Attorney General Letitia James.
The mayor's campaign launch comes amid ongoing issues in New York City, such as:
- Crumbling public housing
- A record number of homeless New Yorkers
- A debate over de Blasio's proposal to change admissions at the city's specialized high schools
- A measles outbreak
Another outstanding issue facing de Blasio is the city's new budget, which is due at the end of June. That's also the same time the first presidential debates are scheduled.
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