DES MOINES — Hoping to impress “the best vetters around” during his first trip to Iowa as a presidential candidate, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio offered himself as a fighter for working Americans and the Democrats’ best hope of going “toe to toe” to beat President Donald Trump in 2020.
De Blasio, 58, spent his first day on the ground in Iowa on Friday after announcing his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. He toured an ethanol plant, met with farmers and participated in a mental health roundtable as a way to introduce himself and find out what’s on Iowans’ minds.
He also made a blunt prediction that even though he starts as an underdog, he is confident he can win Iowa’s first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses Feb. 3 and go on to face “con Don” Trump in the 2020 general election.
“I expect to win Iowa, I expect to win the whole thing. I wouldn’t be running if I wasn’t focused on winning,” de Blasio told reporters. “I’ve run in 10 elections, I’ve won them all and pretty much every time I started as an underdog. ... I think the issues facing working people in Iowa are very much like the ones in New York. People are looking for actual solutions.”
That’s what de Blasio, New York City mayor since 2014, says he brings to the 24-candidate Democratic field — real-world solutions for working people, such as prekindergarten for all, paid sick leave and boosting the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“Iowans, in my opinion, are the best vetters around when it comes to looking at candidates, asking tough questions, really figuring out who someone is,” he said. “I think what people in this state are going to care about is can you prove that you can get the job done.
“For me, it’s not policy papers, it’s not something abstract, it real work we’ve done for real people,” de Blasio added. “I represent 8.6 million people, and we’ve been able to create a lot of change in their lives, and I think Iowa voters are going to see that as a very important factor.”
He didn’t pull any punches with respect to how he would deal with Trump.
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“You’ve got to keep a bully off balance, and you don’t do that by being passive or being timid,” he told reporters. “I’m going to be very tough with him and that New York culture that I come out of — it’s taught me everything I need to know about beating beat Donald Trump.
“I think too often Democrats have been a little reticent to take him on toe to toe.
“I called him con man in my opening interview, and I think he is a con man. I feel he told working people that he was going to be on their side, and he’s literally done everything that he could do to help the wealthy and the corporations. So I call him ‘con Don’ and I’m saying that phrase to make a point that I’m not falling for what this guy is all about — I know how to fight what he does, I know how to challenge him.”
The fact that Trump responded to him with a tweet and a video after de Blasio called him out during this week’s candidacy announcement “proved that I struck a nerve” with the Republican president, he added.
“Here’s the deal. I’m a New Yorker. I understand Donald Trump. I’ve been watching this guy for decades. I know every trick in his book. I know how to deal with him. The only way to deal with this guy is to be tough and go right back at him,” de Blasio said.
“I think being blunt and taking him on is the right way to do things,” he said. “This is about the future of our country. It’s about the future of our planet when you think about global warming. It’s not time to be Mr. Nice Guy. It’s time to be tough, and he deserves what he gets.”
Friday’s Iowa trip caught the attention of national Republicans, who noted the mayor’s announcement Thursday was greeted by protesting New Yorkers and critics frustrated by what they viewed as his management of the city.
“Bill de Blasio is just another typical candidate for the Democrats with his emphatic support for policies like the Green New Deal, government-run health care, free tuition, and mandating that schools eat less meat,” Republican National Committee spokesperson Preya Samsundar said in a statement.
”De Blasio will hit a dead end with Iowans, once they realize that not even New Yorkers believe he should be running for president,” Samsundar said.
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During his Friday, visit de Blasio toured an ethanol plant in Gowrie with former U.S. Agriculture Secretary and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, met with farmers in Greene County, participated with his wife, Chirlane McCray, and Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie in a closed-door mental-health roundtable discussion in Des Moines, and spoke at a fundraiser for the Woodbury Country Democratic Party in Sioux City.
Despite being the mayor of America’s largest city, de Blasio said he was finding a lot of common themes in listening to working Iowans in rural areas who want the government to work for them.
“I think there’s more that unites us than divides us, I really believe that,” de Blasio said in starting his campaign with smaller-venue visits. “We’re doing it piece-by-piece, but what I’m really focusing on today is listening to Iowans. It’s not me, me, me. It’s ‘listen to the people.’ ”
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