DES MOINES, IOWA - On a mini-tour of the Midwest, Mayor Bill de Blasio says he is trying to expand his reach into national politics at the possible expense of his political relationships back home. After speaking in Nebraska Wednesday, he turned east to Iowa. NY1’s Josh Robin filed the following report from the Hawkeye State.
Mayor Bill de Blasio at City Hall. Des Moines City Hall.
"This is my favorite line. What are you doing here?” said de Blasio.
Iowa, of course, hosts the nation's first presidential caucuses.
De Blasio insists he isn't running for president, just trying to influence who the next one is.
"I'm working with progressive leaders all over the country and we are going to put together a progressive vision,” said de Blasio.
It'll take him to Wisconsin this month. The mayor is also working on sponsoring a presidential forum. He wants commitments on paid sick leave and national pre-k and especially bridging the gap between rich and poor. He says the current president hasn't done enough.
“I wish the president had early and often talk about income inequalitry and rallied the American people,” said the mayor.
As for who should replace Barack Obama, de Blasio is waiting, trying to first build his national exposure.
Helping him: a political strategist who advised Barack Obama on how to beat Hillary Clinton in Iowa seven years ago.
Some Democrats seethe over de Blasio's lack of a Clinton endorsement this time. He has long ties to the former first family.
De Blasio shrugs.
"I have been beating this drum for quite a while with team Clinton about the fact that these issues need to be addressed,” said de Blasio.
Former Iowa senator Tom Harkin has been advising Hillary Clinton and they talked about the non-endorsement.
"She said ‘Oh I love bill de Blasio. Ran my campaign for the Senate. Great guy great mayor,’” said Harkin.
Some say the mayor should concentrate on New York issues. It's also Iowa love this week.
He is defending what many call the Hawkeye State's oversized role in the presidential race.
Statewide, Iowa caucuses draw as many people as are in some neighborhoods where de Blasio is mayor.
Even as he's far away from New York the Mayor can't escape local issues. He was asked about his intention to ban horse drawn carriages from Central Park. He says he stands by the decision.