Mitch Landrieu, the mayor of New Orleans, has suddenly decided that he’s suited to be president of the United States. And surprisingly, he’s not the only mayor who has gotten this into their heads.
Landrieu spoke with Mike Allen of Axios recently alongside Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, and both seem incredibly interested in running in 2020. Landrieu is even talking like a potential candidate, mentioning how bipartisan his work has been as president of the United States Conference of Mayors; Garcetti even made a joke about a potential ticket between him and Landrieu in the interview. This is after the New York Times first mentioned the possibility that the New Orleans mayor may make a run for president, and after sources continued to hype him up as a fantastic option and even a “dark horse.”
The big question lies with why Landrieu would even begin to think that he stands a chance of electoral success, let alone if he’s ready to be President of the United States.
Mayors have a very, very low rate of success at becoming president. Out of fifty-six total presidential elections that have resulted in forty-five presidents, exactly two elections have yielded a president that has been a mayor prior to his ascension to the highest office in the United States. That president was Grover Cleveland, who served as the 22nd and the 24th President. However, it needs to be noted that Cleveland didn’t immediately run for president from his post as mayor of the city of Buffalo, New York. He served as governor prior to his run for the presidency.
That’s why this stipulation by the media that Landrieu is this groundbreaking heavyweight of a presidential candidate is surprising. Landrieu’s experience in politics is completely Louisiana-based: he’s served in a variety of positions from the State House to lieutenant governor to his current position as mayor. While that resume may be fine and wonderful for a run for senator or for governor, it lacks the national credentials needed to make an impact nationwide. That’s why Landrieu is pushing his time as president of the United States Conference of Mayors so hard; he’s trying to make what national presence he has last so he can continue on to 2020.
Garcetti and Landrieu need to be aware of the uphill track they are taking by running for president. While Cleveland may be the only successful former mayor to become president, it’s not for a lack of mayors trying. Most recently was former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was the 2008 GOP frontrunner until he flamed out in an epic fashion. Even though he had name recognition and money to spare, Giuliani didn’t come remotely close to winning anything where it counted. Before Giuliani were former mayor of Cleveland Dennis Kucinich, who ran in 2004 while a congressman; former mayor of NYC John Lindsay in 1972; and former mayor of Minneapolis Hubert Humphrey, who was the Democratic nominee in 1968. None of these candidates won, and it’s notable that every single one of these candidates governed over a city that is larger than New Orleans. Landrieu has an uphill slope on name recognition, on experience, on money, and on connections outside of Louisiana. His time as mayor has been subject to constant controversy, and that makes him an easy target. While Eric Garcetti certainly has a decent record to run on in Los Angeles after getting the 2028 Olympics and has a deep fundraising base in a deeply blue state, Landrieu simply does not have any advantages going for him.
While Mitch Landrieu has virtually everything going against him in a potential 2020 presidential run, nothing is impossible. After all, we did elect Donald Trump. However, we must ask ourselves as a nation, do we really want to elect someone who was mayor of a city that is home to only around 400,000 people, especially when that mayor can’t even run his own city well? Do we wish to elect a mayor who decided to stay an extra day at a conference in Aspen, Colorado while his city flooded? One that is more concerned with the Paris Climate Accords and Confederate monuments than keeping the city’s lights on and preventing crime? We may have elected a president with little experience in government in 2016, but the voters of the United States should certainly beware electing an unsuccessful mayor to the presidency.