ABOARD THE ACELA — It was the morning of Super Tuesday, and I was sitting in the first-class car of the Amtrak Acela Express (got a free upgrade) to Washington DC when I accidentally got cream cheese all over my laptop.
When I tried to get up to grab a napkin to circumvent catastrophe, a man in a crisp, sky-blue button-down was blocking my way to the bathroom, standing in the aisle, holding a seat for support, talking to a fan.
It was, of course, Andrew Yang.
After some encouragement from my editors, I decided to talk to the former Democratic presidential candidate, who just a few weeks out of the race is now a regular on CNN. Turns out he was game, and happy to gossip about the race and his own future.
“You know, we’re looking at it,” he said when I asked if he’s thinking about running for mayor of New York City.
“Joe’s team reached out to me yesterday,” he said when I asked if he’s facing pressure to back Joe Biden. “At this point, I consider Joe a friend.”
Yang was on his way to DC to spend much of the night on a panel of pundits for CNN’s Super Tuesday show and seemed generally amped for what was coming in the next few hours.
“I’m really excited to see how the voting unfolds in the Super Tuesday states today,” Yang told me, speaking quietly so as not to disturb the other train passengers (or so they wouldn’t eavesdrop).
“Today the biggest question is how much of the support that was going to Pete [Buttigieg] and Amy [Klobuchar] and Tom [Steyer] heads to Joe or Bernie [Sanders] or Elizabeth Warren or [Michael] Bloomberg,” he said. “And then the big question is what decision Bloomberg makes depending on how today goes.”
Buttigieg dropped out of the race Sunday and Klobuchar threw in the towel Monday. Both quickly endorsed Biden in an attempt to unite moderate Democrats against Sanders, appearing alongside the former vice president at separate events Monday, urging their supporters to turn to Biden.
Yang told me that since dropping out of the race, he has been in touch with many of his former competitors for the Democratic nomination, especially in recent days. He reached out to Buttigieg and Klobuchar via text, but only Buttigieg responded.
“I just told Pete that he should be really proud of the race he ran,” Yang said, adding that Buttigieg was likely about to go before cameras with Biden as they were texting. “It’s hard when you end, you know, it’s a lot of mixed emotions, so I wanted to try and raise the positive set of responses. It’s very disappointing for a lot of people when you decide to suspend.”
Buttigieg sent him “a nice note back,” he said.
“And I actually just got off the phone with Tom, we were comparing notes on post-campaign life,” Yang told me, referring to hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, who only dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination this past weekend. “We ended up talking about the race a fair amount. … The field is shrinking very quickly and I think that’s a good thing for the process and the party.”
When I asked if anyone was pushing him to endorse Biden, Yang told me yes: Biden. Biden’s team called him on Monday, he said, but he hasn’t yet “had a chance to talk to Joe." But this isn’t unusual, Yang explained; his staff and Biden’s talk all the time. However, this doesn’t mean he’s ready to endorse Biden for president.
“I don’t have any plans to endorse as of this moment, but something could change at any moment, my phone could ring at any moment,” Yang said.
And his phone did ring, frequently. He spent most of the train ride he wasn’t talking to me pacing back and forth on his phone next to the train bathrooms, out of earshot.
“I’ve been clear from the get-go that if someone were to champion a universal basic income in their campaign, it would go a long way” toward getting his endorsement, he said. Yang named Warren and Bloomberg as the two candidates who have taken his suggestion most seriously, saying that Warren read his book and publicly stated that basic income was an “option to consider,” while Bloomberg’s team has been “looking at it very actively,” Yang said.
Speaking of Bloomberg, I posited, there have been reports that the former mayor of New York and current billionaire tried to get Yang’s support by floating the vice presidency as an option. In response, Yang smiled, laughed, and gave me a look, but said he could not comment specifically on whether Bloomberg had asked him.
“I’ve gotten outreach from people who have suggested that [joining a ticket as vice president] is a consideration,” Yang said. “It’s flattering to be considered as someone’s running mate and everyone also knows I wanna do what I can to make Donald Trump a one-term president.”
(Shortly after we spoke, Yang tweeted “I have a feeling it might be a tough day for the Bloomberg campaign.”)
However, Yang’s team has also been looking into running for the office Bloomberg used to occupy.
“You know, we’re looking at it,” Yang said of running for mayor in New York City’s elections next year, crossing his legs to reveal socks with comedian Ronny Chieng’s face on them.
“One of the things I’m most curious about is who are the other candidates in the race, and what the race would look like,” he said. “Because I tend to want to do something where I feel like I’m gonna have a big impact and add a lot of value, so if there’s someone who’s already running who would have a positive agenda that’s very aligned with mine — I’m not someone who is just driven by maximum political advantage. I wanna see how much value I can add.”
Just then CNN’s Van Jones walked over, telling me he would have to “bug” Yang in a few moments, to prepare for the Super Tuesday show that evening.
“We’ll see!” he said, before we thanked each other and I went back to my seat to finish my bagel. As he got off the train, he donned a navy blue hoodie, putting the hood up to cover his face.