As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues her brilliant buzz-building swing to Iowa, the political media has created a subplot involving New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his supposed snub of Clinton on Sunday's Meet the Press. De Blasio -- Hillary's former campaign manager -- was asked if he would officially endorse her, and in declining to do so, has betrayed his one-time mentor, and must now roam the galaxy under the name Darth de Blasio, more machine than man.
You'd expect this sort of thing from conservatives, but the narrative has been parroted by veteran political journalists, including, most absurdly, NBC News' Andrea Mitchell. During an interview with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) Tuesday, Mitchell actually accused de Blasio of knocking Hillary on Sunday, saying
"He took a real shot at Hillary Clinton on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd on Sunday, refusing to endorse her, saying she has to prove herself. Doesn't that seem a little bit ungrateful?"
Man, de Blasio must've really lit into her. Send the kids away, folks, here it is:
Bill de Blasio: I think she's a tremendous public servant. I think she is one of the most qualified people to ever run for this office. And by the way, thoroughly vetted, we can say that. But we need to see the substance.
Chuck Todd: All right. Do you want to see her get a tough primary?
Bill de Blasio: I think, again, what's happening now almost synthesizes some of the reality of the primary. Clearly what's happening with the rest of the wing of the Democratic party is a demand for our candidates to come forward with a vision. That's creating some of the same positive pressure you see in the primary process. She doesn't need to be vetted. I think we can safely say that. But I think she has to address the issues and that can be done with or without a primary.
Wow, "one of the most qualified people to ever run for this office?" That's gonna require some stitches, huh? Not only was de Blasio effusive in his praise of Hillary, he tipped his hand right there on the interview. Unlike truly authentic anti-Hillary emoprogs (who have found common cause with conservative concern trolls), de Blasio flatly shoots down the absurd notion that a tough primary will benefit Clinton and the Democrats, a narrative the media has been selling like dope fiends at a blood bank.
It's easy to see why this story has such universal appeal among mainstream journalists, who crave conflict like Marco Rubio craves water, but it requires experienced reporters to pretend they know absolutely nothing about politics, and more specifically, that for de Blasio to have endorsed Hillary Clinton on Sunday would have been a case of grave political malpractice.
There are three basic things to consider about any political endorsement: what it does for the candidate, what it does for the endorser, and what timing will maximize its impact for both.
Pop quiz, hotshot: It is now day two-and-a-half of the Clinton campaign. Can you tell me the name of even one person who has endorsed Hillary Clinton? You probably can't even, though there are plenty of them, and that's the point: endorsing now does nothing for Hillary or de Blasio. Andrew Cuomo got it out of the way to put his own frustrated ambitions behind him, Emily's List was so eager to get it done that they actually sent a robot back in time to endorse Hillary in 1980, and the mayor of Syracuse is obviously using the YouTube comments section "FIRST!" strategy.
For everyone else, though, an endorsement is like a "free news cycle" card in the Monopoly game of politics. A big endorsement like de Blasio's can help win a slow news cycle, or divert attention from a news cycle that's circling the drain. In case you hadn't noticed, Hillary Clinton and her van already own this entire week. Endorsing Hillary Sunday morning (before she even announced) would have been like setting fire to that card.
In de Blasio's case, the endorsement carries the added value of helping to convert some of the endorser's supporters to the candidate's cause (hence the early Emily's List endorsement), which Hillary badly needs. She doesn't need it now, though, since she's running unopposed, and an instant endorsement by de Blasio wouldn't change anyone's mind, anyway. It would be seen as an obligation by a crony. In setting a bar for Clinton to clear, de Blasio adds value to his eventual endorsement when he declares she's cleared it.
Even if the unlikely occurs, and some Democrat mounts a credible challenge to Hillary, de Blasio still has plenty of cover to endorse Clinton, and he will. Hillary is still the favorite to win, and backing the candidate who loses to Ted Cruz doesn't help anyone.
Objective reporters can't, of course, be expected to read de Blasio's mind, but no one with an ounce of political experience could honestly see this failure to endorse on Sunday as anything but the normal thing to do. You can bet that if de Blasio had told Todd, "Yep, I'm for Hillary," the first person on the phone to holler at him would have been Hillary Clinton.