LOS ANGELES — When Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa gavels the 2012 Democratic National Convention into session in Charlotte this September, his role as prominent cheerleader for President Obama will be clear.
It is less clear, for now, if Villaraigosa has designs on the ultimate convention role in 2016--taking center stage to accept his party's nomination on the final night.
Despite running the country's second largest city and coming from the fastest growing voting demographic in America, the mayor himself is quick to wave off talk of a presidential run.
"The answer is no," Villaraigosa replied when asked by Yahoo News if he wanted to be president one day. "I want to finish this job with a bang. I want to go out with my head up high. I want to say to this city, 'I put everything into this job,'" he added.
"The job I've said to people I would like is I would like to be governor of the state of California," he said. (Paging Jerry Brown.)
It's easy to dismiss Villaraigosa's likelihood of capturing the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, much less the presidency, due to his rocky (and public) personal life, lack of a developed national fundraising base, and occasional conflicts with portions of his political base.
But recall that Bill Clinton made it to the Oval Office with the personal baggage of infidelity and Barack Obama became the first non-white candidate to achieve the highest office in the land--you can begin to see how Villaraigosa's interest in a 2016 run may yet still develop.
Villaraigosa's term as mayor of Los Angeles is up July 1, 2013. He says he will spend his remaining time in office bolstering his accomplishments in crime reduction (a 40.6 percent drop in violent crime, 41 percent drop in homicides), the environment (doubled the Kyoto protocol required reductions in greenhouse gas emissions bringing them down to 14 percent of 1990 levels in seven years), education (reduced schools defined as "failing" according to state scores from 33 percent to 10 percent), and transportation (more on that later). Charlotte provides an opportunity to start road testing his brand beyond Los Angeles' city limits.
"I think I'm going to take a time out. I'll probably associate with a think tank or a university. I want to write. I want to read. I'll probably speak around the country. I certainly get enough invitations," he said of his immediate post-mayoral plans.
Villaraigosa recently wrapped up a one-year tenure as the head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors where he wrangled more than 200 mayors to support his successful push for "America Fast Forward," a federal loan program for transportation infrastructure projects that will allow cities to leverage federal dollars over an extended period of time. President Obama signed the expanded program into law as part of the larger transportation bill earlier this month at the White House with Villaraigosa by his side.
Now the mayor's travel is mostly on behalf of the Obama campaign for which he has done no fewer than 20 either official or campaign related events over the last year at various state party gatherings, fundraisers, constituency group conferences, and official policy events. The potential benefits of circling the country to meet party activists and elected officials in key states including Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico is lost on no one.