For at least one day, Mayor Bill de Blasio was in a New York state of mind.
Far from the Iowa farms and South Carolina churches he frequented during his unlikely bid for the presidency, the mayor ended his campaign Friday with a subway ride to join tens of thousands of students marching in Lower Manhattan for action on climate change.
He tweeted the classic “I Love New York” slogan to accompany a picture of the demonstration.
And he even congratulated the Yankees, rivals to his beloved Red Sox, after they clinched the AL East title.
Whether intentional or not, de Blasio spent the day presenting a counterpoint to the critiques of absenteeism and disinterest that have tainted much of his mayoralty and exploded during his short-lived campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
De Blasio, who never hit 2 percent in the polls, said his hopes for the Democratic presidential nomination dimmed when he couldn’t qualify for the last Democratic debate. A spate of appearances on cable news shows never provided the “viral moment” he sought to jumpstart his campaign. And his frequent trips out of town weighed on his approval ratings back home.
In August, he caught flak for taking to social media to marvel at the beauty of Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon, where he was taking a hike during a trip covered by campaign and government expenses. “Greetings from — anywhere but the Big Apple,” the New York Post jabbed.
But on Friday, he was all Big Apple pride.
“I have been working constantly throughout the last four months on things that really matter to New Yorkers,” he told reporters outside Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s official residence on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
He referenced the business of government he has tended to in recent months — passing the annual city budget and reaching a deal on pay parity for child care workers.
“We’ve been doing plan after plan, progress of all kinds. I think everyday New Yorkers get it. I think the insiders like to talk about it a certain way, but everyday New Yorkers see things happening all the time,” he said. “You’ll be seeing a lot more over the next two years, three months and 11 days.”
An hour or so earlier, he bristled when a radio caller — seemingly an “everyday New Yorker” — began his question by welcoming the mayor back to New York. “I never left,” he said, clearly irked by the assertion.
After taking questions for 10 minutes outside Gracie Mansion, the mayor boarded a downtown subway to the climate march. The rare train ride — he’s typically driven around the city by his police detail — provided him a chance to show unity with crowds of New Yorkers as pictures poured into Twitter.
Whether de Blasio continues to be active and present during his remaining time in office is an open question.
He has already decided to reactivate his federal and state political action committees to support candidates and policies throughout the country, campaign senior adviser Jon Paul Lupo said on Friday.
Lupo, who previously worked in City Hall, is opening his own firm and plans to work on that effort. The PACs also served as exploratory committees for de Blasio in an unusual campaign finance scheme that prompted two complaints with the Federal Election Commission.
In fact, the FEC sent his campaign a letter this week demanding more information about the PACs’ record-keeping.
But on Friday, de Blasio appeared almost jovial, pleased with his decision to run and at peace with his decision to drop out.
He said he began to realize he had no path to victory when he failed to meet the donor and polling qualifications the Democratic National Committee set in place for the September debate.
Looking to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who qualified for a debate in July after missing the threshold in June, de Blasio pressed on anyway.
“I indicated to all you guys a couple weeks back that the debates to me had become the main street of this election season. That does not mean they’re particularly satisfying enterprises,” he said.
“But as we went over the last few weeks, every day that passed, it got tougher as there wasn’t more progress,” he said.
A source familiar with his decision said he had hoped his appearance on CNN for a one-on-one town hall-style interview in August would give him the exposure he needed to increase his poll numbers and fundraising totals.
But both remained stagnant. So, following a final swing through South Carolina over the weekend and a speech at an AFL-CIO presidential summit in Philadelphia on Tuesday, he decided to pull the plug.
“We were watching the polling to see if anything was moving and it just wasn’t moving,” de Blasio said. “So in the end, you know, you gotta make decisions based on the facts and sometimes it’s just not your time. And that’s okay.”
His campaign staffers, who have been working out of a shared office space in Gowanus for the past few months, are now deciding whether to return to City Hall, where most of them worked before taking leave.
Jon Green, the political director for the campaign and a former City Hall senior adviser, said he is undecided on his next move. And no one would say what de Blasio’s son, recent college graduate Dante de Blasio, has planned. Dante has been a fixture in the mayor’s political career for years and had a paid job on this campaign.
“Bill de Blasio has two more years to communicate the actual good he’s done in NYC, work on a better relationship with the reporters who cover him and the elected officials who should be with him, and get more things done for the people of this City,” tweeted his former adviser Rebecca Katz, a political consultant who said she is not aligned with any presidential campaign. “I hope he succeeds.”
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine