Bill Blasio's polls are anemic. He became an object of ridicule for the tabloid press. And many locals complain that the city he runs has backtracked under his watch.
Yet the mayor of New York City joined an overcrowded group on Thursday in search of the Democratic nomination for the presidency.
Mr. de Blasio announced his campaign with a video address, promising to improve the plight of working-class Americans and stressing that he had the ardor and native talent to face President Donald Trump – He nicknamed "Con Don".
"I know we can do it because I did it here, in the biggest and most difficult city in the country," said de Blasio during an appearance in the Good Morning America program, then that the demonstrators were making fun of him in front of the television studio.
With his wife and councilor Chirlane McCray at his side, the progressive mayor promised a redistributive platform shamelessly: "I say it plainly: there is a lot of money in this world and there are many in this country. It's just in the wrong hands.
Mr. Trump pointed to the entry of his New York compatriot into the race with a tweet from Thursday morning: "He's a PLAYER, but if you like high taxes and crime, that's a good thing. is your man NYC hates him!
The announcement by the two-term mayor of the most populous city in the United States was widely expected. He has been campaigning informally for months, visiting key states like Iowa and New Hampshire.
In the mayoral election of 2013, Mr. de Blasio won a landslide by describing a "tale of two cities" and pledging to fight for the poorest people forgotten during the mandate of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He was re-elected in 2017 with 66% of the votes.
Yet, in a city accustomed to command mayors embodying their brazen metropolis, the noble Mr de Blasio – a casual manager and long-time fan of the Boston Red Sox baseball team – was uncomfortable .
His achievement as mayor has been the establishment of universal pre-school education programs for New York City children – a success that even harsh critics recognize. It has also maintained the city's low crime rate while mitigating aggressive unpopular police tactics in minority communities.
Yet, his popularity has diminished. Although he was not personally charged, the administration of Mr. de Blasio was tainted by a corruption scandal. He was also widely criticized for the city's feeling of decline, from New York's crisp metro to its dilapidated social housing and its growing homelessness.
In a survey conducted last month by Quinnipiac University, 76 percent of New Yorkers said that de Blasio should not run for president. Only 42% approved its performance, a figure pollsters called "anemic" for a democratic city.
"The good news is that most people in the country do not know him," said Hank Sheinkopf, an experienced campaign strategist, about Mr. de Blasio's prospects. "The bad news is that some of them are doing it."
But, noted Mr. Sheinkopf, Mr. de Blasio should not be underestimated: throughout his career, he has proven to be an insightful activist. Despite his difficulties, the mayor has defended problems dear to progressive voters who will play a disproportionate role in the Democratic Party's primary, including health care and the fight against climate change.
If candidates such as Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren failed, Mr. de Blasio could become an attractive alternative to the party's progressive wing, he predicted. "He knows how to run a campaign. It's something he's very good at, "said Sheinkopf.
Another long-time New York political strategist has acknowledged that Blasio's story of building equity in the city could be an attractive national argument, even though the strategist has decried his mayoral performance.
"It may not be the reality that we all live [in New York]but it's a fascinating story, "said the strategist.
The black community has been a reliable source of support for Mr. de Blasio. According to the Quinnipiac poll, two-thirds of New York's black voters approved its performance, compared to only 31 percent of white voters.
During his mayoral campaign, Mr. de Blasio featured his wife, Mrs. McCray, black, and their son, Dante.
"It's basically been the color candidate twice in New York, and it worked," said the strategist, saying the same approach could bear fruit in South Carolina, a primitive state in which the most Democratic voters are black.
Whatever the result, Mr. de Blasio would seem to have little to lose with his candidacy for the White House. His term as mayor ends in two years and there is no other obvious opening for him in state politics. According to observers, a credible performance could be used to audition a cabinet position or other high-level work.
"It may be that he sees a way to get more recognition and to be able to function in four years," said Alexander Reichl, a political scientist at Queens College.
Mr Reichl congratulated the mayor for directing the political debate on cities towards social justice and improving the lives of the oppressed. A legacy of the near-bankruptcy of New York in 1975, he said, was the belief that the city simply could not afford a liberal mayor like Mr. de Blasio.
Until then, Mr. Reichl judged his term as a "mixture" characterized by noble rhetoric but an often distant approach to governance. "There does not seem to be much love for him in New York," he said.
Additional report by Pan Kwan Yuk in New York