As I speculated/feared last week, nannyish New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is seriously considering whether to buy a slot in the presidential race.
Publicly, Bloomberg is focused on his second term and leaving the city in better shape than he got it. Privately, Bloomberg and political adviser Kevin Sheekey are meeting with pollsters and consultants to assess the mayor's chances as a third-party, independent candidate. "There is no Bloomberg campaign," Sheekey tells NEWSWEEK. "But we have certainly reached out." At a dinner last year with Al From, founder of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, Bloomberg was candid and self-deprecating, wondering what chance a 5-foot-7, divorced Jew has in the celebrity-sweepstakes presidential contest.The answer is that it depends on who the nominees are for the two major parties, and how much cash Bloomberg is willing to spend.
The money part is easy for a self-made media mogul. "He could spend $500 million in a campaign and not even think about it," says From. But he'd probably do it only if buyer's remorse sets in among the voters. Because the primary process is so front-loaded this cycle, the winners will be known in early February, leaving nine months until the election for voters to get antsy. "He won't say anything until March of next year," says a former aide privy to the early discussions who didn't want to be named talking about them. "The guiding philosophy is who the Democratic and Republican nominees are, and the mood of the country once they know who those two people are."
If the Democratic Leadership Council is involved, they must be thinking a Bloomberg candidacy would be Perot II, poaching votes from the McCain/Rudy/Romney/Brownback/Stassen ticket and smoothing the red carpet for a Democrat. Golly, that's stupid. The Democratic party is weaker in the South but stronger pretty much everywhere else than it was in 1992; the Republican party, for numerous reasons, is as unpopular as it's been since 1974. Candidate Bloomberg won't run on the issues that could possibly get angry ex-Republicans who can't support Hillary or Obama to switch to him. He supports gun bans, smoking bans, bans of dangerous foods. He supports gay marriage, abortion without restrictions. His immigration views are to the left of both parties' leading '08 candidates. He's for pot decriminalization, but I doubt he'd try to mainstream that issue in a presidential run.
So if you're a Democrat, a Bloomberg candidacy, strongest in the blue Northeast, makes a Hillary or Obama victory less likely. It'd be John Anderson Part II. If you're a libertarian, the presence of a billionaire candidate with Bloomberg's platform holds the risk of pushing the two major party candidates (not the LP of course) to support bigger government and "public health" laws, to cut off the independent's support. If you're a Republican partisan, psst—Unity 08 still needs volunteers!
Brian Doherty lampooned the drive for a phony independent candidate earlier this year.