The farms and factories of Iowa may be a world away from the beaches and boulevards of Los Angeles.
However, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti drove home the comparison in a visit to the state Friday.
"Iowa and Los Angeles have a ton in common, not just because we have the U.S.S. Iowa battleship in our port," Garcetti said at a visit to a tavern in Beaverdale, reported CNN.
"We have the same struggles. We have the same hopes right now, and we have the same challenges before us," Garcetti said. "People who are wondering, 'Can I get out from under debt and send my kid to college?' Will I have the opportunity in the future economy to find a place for me in it?' .... People here are sick and tired of Washington, or the state capital, telling us what we should do in our local communities."
The state holds the first major contest of the presidential campaign, and Garcetti’s tour is a clear signal of the 46-year-old's presidential ambitions.
Rumours of a potential White House run started last year with visits to Wisconsin in June, where he spoke at the state's Democratic Party convention; New Hampshire in August, where he stumped for a Democrat mayoral candidate; and Indiana in November, where he attended the inaugural meeting of the non-profit Accelarator for America.
After ruling himself out of a run for the California governor's office, he has done nothing to quell the presidential rumors.
“There are 23 states that have a population smaller than Los Angeles,” he remarked in a December interview with the New York Times.
History is not on Garcetti's side, as no sitting mayor has ever become U.S. president.
These are not normal times though, and a number of Democratic mayors from around the country considering presidential bids. Among them are New York’s Bill De Blasio, Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and Julian Castro, a former San Antonio mayor.
Little-known outside southern California, Garcetti was elected as mayor of LA in 2013.
Of Jewish and Mexican descent, he is the son of Gil Garcetti, the district attorney who prosecuted OJ Simpson for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her lover Ron Goldman in 1994-95.
Since his election, Garcetti has advocated for the Dreamers, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients—whose status in the U.S. is under threat from the Trump administration—and the Paris climate accords.
In August, he re-launched LA's 2028 Olympics bid.
He was re-elected in a landslide in March 2017.
Daunting hurdles lie in Garcetti's path to the White House, with rural and suburban voters—who make up the largest voting bloc in the U.S.—traditionally reluctant to back mayoral presidential candidates.
Critics have also pointed to his caution and relatively modest run of achievements in the mayor's office, and lack of experience in national or even statewide elections.
Others, though, believe his mixed heritage and staunch support for environmental protection will give him a broad appeal if he decides to launch himself into the 2020 race for the White House.
In his Times interview, Garcetti made a virtue of his outsider status.
“The classic rules of American politics are dying if not dead, if you look at the last two presidential elections,” Garcetti said. “An African-American could never be president until one was, a TV reality star couldn’t become president until one was.”
“There’s definitely an impatient next generation ready to move,” he said.
Sean Bagniewski, chair of the Polk County Democrats, said Garcetti’s intensive early stage campaigning would pay dividends in a crowded 2020 Democratic field.
"I hate to say what I'm about to say, but he's got some of the Obama buzz that we've been hearing about—somebody who is coming out of nowhere, but is dynamic, has a great American story, and has the ability to cross a bunch of different lines within the Democratic Party and with independent voters," he told CNN Friday.
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