Bill de Blasio’s win in New York City’s mayoral race has put the Democrat in charge of the nation’s largest city and smack in the middle of the nation’s largest media market — giving him an unmatched platform both to pursue liberal policies and to cause all sorts of headaches for his party’s leaders in Washington.
Mr. de Blasio’s landslide victory made him a hero among liberal activists, who likened him to Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and embraced his campaign promises to raise taxes on the city’s wealthier residents and use the new pot of money to expand government programs and tackle inequality.
Republican strategists already anticipate being able to use the mayor’s stances as a wedge against Democrats running for national office, and analysts said some Democrats may indeed have to spend time defending their left flank.
“De Blasio poses interesting challenges for the Democratic Party,” said Darrell M. West, director of the Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. “He is more liberal than the typical officeholder and will attract a lot of media attention given his platform in New York City. That will inject him into many public discussions. I don’t think he will become a Ted Cruz figure for the Democratic side, but he has the potential to be a Howard Dean who seeks to rally the public towards a more progressive view of the world.”
Mr. Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign remains a topic of debate, with some saying he pushed his party too far to the left and cost it the general election, while others said he energized the party’s liberal base, especially its “netroots,” and paved the way for both the party’s 2006 seizure of Congress and Barack Obama’s emergence as a progressive hero in the subsequent election.
The same sort of dynamic has played out in Republican ranks, where grass-roots conservatives and tea party activists rose up to call on the party to return to the limited government principles that they say were abandoned during the George W. Bush administration.
Republican strategist Ron Bonjean said Mr. de Blasio’s victory, which made him the first Democrat to win the mayor’s office in two decades, could cause headaches for some Democrats in competitive races.
“Republicans will time and again be able to ask vulnerable Democrats in red states if they agree with the New York mayor about his left-wing policies,” Mr. Bonjean said.
A New York City councilman and member of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign, Mr. de Blasio made headlines by lambasting the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy. Mr. de Blasio also promised to raise taxes on the wealthy to help cover the cost of universal prekindergarten and increase access to affordable housing.
“The challenges we face have been decades in the making, and the problems we set out to address will not be solved overnight,” Mr. de Blasio said in his election night victory speech. “But make no mistake: The people of this city have chosen a progressive path. And tonight we set forth on it — together, as one city.”
Some political observers, though, say that Mr. de Blasio’s campaign promises will never come to fruition because his progressive campaign rhetoric will run into the realities of governing.
Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist, said that it unclear whether Mr. de Blasio’s administration will cause headaches for the party.
“Because it is New York, it will be hard to see how something he does goes beyond the borders of the city,” Mr. Trippi said. He pointed to former Republican Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani as the example of someone who had a “big impact on the city, but not a big impact on his party.”
“There will be a lot that the right can criticize,” he said. “I just don’t think it would create a schism for the rest of the party because it is New York.”
John McLaughlin, a GOP pollster, said at least one Democrat could feel heat — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is seeking re-election next year and is often mentioned as a potential 2016 presidential candidate.
“The governor’s re-election success has been on his ability to keep a lid on state spending and state taxes,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “In New York City it is pretty clear that de Blasio wants to raise income tax on job creators and probably will create a spending situation where he will have to raise other taxes, which is exactly the opposite of what Cuomo has been trying to do.”
Mr. McLaughlin said this difference between the two men “is going to create major cross pressure from the governor, who is trying to win re-election on a fiscal conservative and socially moderate platform.”
Larry J. Sabato, head of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said that Mr. de Blasio could reinforce the party’s liberal wing heading into the 2016 presidential primaries and fuel a Democratic presidential candidate who will run from the left, suggesting that candidate could be Mrs. Warren, Mr. Dean or former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
“Of course, there are a lot of big ‘ifs’ there,” he said. “Will those candidates actually run? And, most important, will de Blasio be successful or just controversial?”