In both 2008 and 2016, Chelsea Clinton was one of the top surrogates for her mother’s campaign. I wasn’t entirely sure then what Clinton had done to merit the role when her chief achievement in the political sphere thus far is being the progeny of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and the intervening years haven’t given me any more wisdom in the matter.
As for whether Chelsea Clinton’s surrogacy helped the campaign, well, just look at the results.
Clearly, putting your kid out front-and-center during a campaign as if they’re an effective endorser has a pretty frightful risk/reward ratio. But then, to quote Bob Dylan, when you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing left to lose.
I’m guessing that probably has something behind New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to put his son front and center in his presidential campaign. However, he’s not just going to be a surrogate.
“It started out with a soft launch: a snippet of Dante de Blasio supposedly giving his father some tongue-in-cheek advice before he stepped on the presidential debate stage. It did not land particularly well,” The New York Times reported last week.
“Then he published an op-ed he had written a few years earlier about his interactions with the police as a young black man, and how his father, Mayor Bill de Blasio, instructed him to be cautious.
“Now, Dante is ready to pitch in full time: He is joining the de Blasio presidential campaign as a paid policy analyst.
“’I’ve always loved politics, love learning about it, love being involved in it, and this campaign seemed like a great opportunity to get more involved in the world,’” Dante said at a media conference, according to The Times.
“‘And,’ he noted dryly, ‘my dad’s running for president,'” The Times reported.
That’s debatable. He currently sits at 0.6 percent in the RealClearPolitics polling average, last among candidates they’re tracking, behind Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and former Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet.
But hey, Dante thinks he has a shot.
“It’s definitely a difficult situation but I have no doubt that he can make a name for himself, even in this crowded field,” Dante said. “He’s proven over the years and multiple elections that he can fight his way up as an underdog.”
Dante de Blasio’s qualifications are, well … I’ve seen better. He’s a recent Yale graduate with a political science degree, which is pretty good. He’s a champion debater. He’s de Blasio’s son. There you go.
He’ll be reporting directly to the mayor’s campaign manager, Jon Paul Lupo. He’ll also be introducing his father at events and helping him prepare for debates.
“Having smart, young people on the campaign is great,” Lupo said.
And what kind of insights does Dante de Blasio have about his father?
“He needs to talk a lot more about how his experience in New York translates nationally,” he said. “It’s easy for all of his achievements to get lost given that a lot of candidates are talking about progressive issues now.
“But I think he’s the only one that can say, ‘I believe in these progressive causes, I’ve accomplished them legislatively and here’s how they can be translated to a national stage.’”
I have no doubt that Dante is a very talented individual who’ll make a great policy analyst and debate prep guy for a presidential campaign — in a few years after he gets some experience. This is a kid straight out of college. There would be almost no chance he would get a job like this on any other campaign.
De Blasio’s people tried to spin this as best they could.
“From everything that I’ve seen, his family is very important to him and he’s close to them,” Richard Buery, de Blasio’s former deputy mayor, said.
“We see that in the role Chirlane plays in his administration, and some of his key initiatives come from his experience as a dad.”
Thus, when Dante writes an Op-Ed for USA Today about potential fear over interaction with police because of the fact that he’s half-black, “for the mayor, it’s not a talking point, it’s something that is driven by his experience,”
To be fair, this isn’t the first time that Dante has played a key role in his dad’s campaign. In 2013, an ad featuring him helped catapult de Blasio to the top of the Democrat heap over candidates with more name recognition:
Cute advertisement. I’m sure that maybe he got a video game out of the deal or something. He didn’t get a gig as a paid political analyst on the campaign. He’s a little more qualified now.
“Back then I was just trying to help my dad,” he said of the ad. “Now, I’m just trying to help my dad.”
Well, unlike Chelsea, Dante managed to help his dad win an election — although mostly because the subtext of the advertisement was that de Blasio had a black wife and a biracial son during a year where stop-and-frisk was a key issue in the mayoral race. That was a pretty big deal in New York City circa 2013.
In the 2019 Democrat race, that and $12 will get you a month of Netflix. If de Blasio wants to out-identity the rest of the field, he’s going to have to leap over a lot of people who’ve already established way more credibility.
Of course, my instincts here could be all wrong and the mayor could just be trying to follow the Clintons in arrant nepotism by giving his kid a cushy gig he wouldn’t be able to get otherwise and roles within the campaign he hasn’t earned. Unlike the Clintons, however, the de Blasio name isn’t enough to get Dante on the board of Expedia as with Chelsea. For now, I guess, this will have to do.
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