Garcetti in Iowa from Mark Z. Barabak on Twitter.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is living a split existence these days. Part of the time he spends in early primary states like Iowa, where he just spent several days meeting voters to prepare for running for president. Part of the time he spends at his day job as mayor of LA. He returned this weekend from a much-covered Iowa tour in time to to prepare for his fifth State of the City speech, which he will deliver Monday at 10 a.m. in the City Council chambers.
The LA Times sent political writer Mark Z. Barabak on this Garcetti swing to Iowa, and he called the mayor "an utter mystery to most living beyond his city limits."
Los Angeles, of course, has a reputation that precedes it — swimming pools, movie stars — and Garcetti's habit is to preempt it with a joke about the Kardashians and a homily on how, deep down, we're all very much the same.
He tailored his iteration on this trip to local sensibilities, with mention of his wife's roots in rural Waterloo, his previous caucus experience — he came here to campaign for Obama in 2008 — and the fact the USS Iowa is stationed as a maritime museum at the Port of Los Angeles.
"I think that Iowa and Los Angeles have a ton in common," Garcetti told about 75 Polk County Democrats, who crowded an Irish-themed tavern on a rainy Saturday in Des Moines. "We have the same struggles. We have the same hopes right now, and the same challenges before us: 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?"
Barabak terms Garcetti an "all-but-announced" 2020 candidate for president. They sat down and talked about it before the weekend, with Garcetti saying he wouldn't be pondering a run if Donald Trump were not president. Barabak asked, "What was the precise moment you said to yourself, 'You know what, I could be president. I could do that job'?" The mayor's answer:
Look, I've worked closely with presidents, especially with President Obama, and I realized that what good leaders do at the national level is no different than what we do at the local level. Leadership is leadership, producing results is producing results.
I mean, I'm always intimidated in life about the next step and pleasantly surprised when I get there that, "Hey, human beings figured out a way to do this before, and I can too." But I don't have a precise moment.
I've always been a little scared by the next step in life. If that can keep you humble, don't be scared and jump in.
Asked what could dissuade him at this point from a run, Garcetti says "Somebody else who checks the boxes that I can get behind. At the end of the day, it's a very personal decision, for my family, for me, for my daughter. I've got a family that comes first and a city that I still want to finish the work for.
"I know if I were to be president, I could maybe have a greater impact on helping Los Angeles than I can even today because some of the frustrations, from homelessness to the environment, we have no help [on] from Washington."
CNN sent Maeve Reston out from LA to cover Garcetti in Iowa, and AP reporters covered what they called Garcetti's Iowa debut. The trip gave Garcetti the status of being the first prospective presidential candidate to visit all four of the early nominating states, after his previous trips to New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
As for Monday's State of the City speech back here in LA, here's the set-up from Garcetti's overnight email to supporters.
From bringing the Olympic and Paralympic Games home to the City of Angels in 2028, to being the only city in America to win the Gold award from Bloomberg Philanthropies for the best-run city, I have never been prouder to be an Angeleno — and your Mayor.
I am committed to making sure all of our neighbors share in our city’s progress and prosperity. Momentum is on our side as we work toward ensuring that every Angeleno has a place to call home — and 2018 will mark a turning point in this effort.