Michael Bloomberg For President? Why?
Once again, pundits are suggesting that New York's Michael Bloomberg might run for President. Though nobody seems to be able to explain why.
Since the political pundits are no longer able to speculate about who might still enter the race for the Republican nomination, speculation has turned, inevitably, to the question of third party bids and specifically the idea that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg could stage a third party bid. John Pohoretz kicks things off in a Op-Ed piece in the New York Post where he argues that the billionaire Mayor is clearly thinking about the possibility:
Fanciers and critics of Michael Bloomberg alike, take note; there are signs he’s noodling once again about making an independent run for president.
Item 1: After two months of dilly-dallying, the mayor finally moved on the Occupy Wall Street encampment, just as — fancy this! — the polls were showing public opinion turning firmly against the squatters nationwide.
Item 2: The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed calling on Barack Obama to forego a bid for second term by Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen. Doesn’t seem relevant? Schoen, an experienced Democratic pollster, has been a Bloomberg intimate for years and one of the leading expostulators of the notion that an independent could really win the presidency in 2012
Item 3: After the supercommittee announced it was unable to come to an agreement on how to cut $1.5 trillion from the federal budget over 10 years, Bloomberg appeared all over the place to pronounce Washington broken.
At a press conference in Staten Island, he declared: “The failure of the supercommittee to come to an agreement is just a damning indictment of Washington’s inability to govern this country.”
He went after Obama especially: “It’s the chief executive’s job to bring people together and to provide leadership in difficult situations. I don’t see that happening. . . This partisan paralysis and political cowardice is defining Washington, and we just cannot afford to have that continue.”
That’s the kind of talk we heard from Ross Perot before he decided to take the plunge and run as an independent in early 1992
None of this is new, of course. The idea of a Bloomberg Presidency has been batted around for more than a year now. It seems to have started with Tom Friedman and other pundits at the New York Times and elsewhere who thought, for some reason, that Bloomberg was the answer to America’s Problems. One political pundit even speculated last September that a Bloomberg third-party bid would weaken President Obama enough to allow Sarah Palin to be elected President. Just about a year ago, Bloomberg himself said that an independent President would be “a good idea,” a statement that renewed the speculation that Bloomberg might run, either as a Republican or an Independent. That speculation seemed to end, though, when Bloomberg himself said toward the end of 2010 that he was not running for President. And yet now the speculation has renewed. In addition to Podhoretz, we have former New York Mayor Ed Koch, who only a few months ago had said he was on board for Obama’s re-elect, is quoted in Politico today saying he thought that Bloomberg should run. On top of all that there are groups like Americans Elect who are purporting to create some kind of a bipartisan “draft ticket” for 2012, with Bloomberg’s name among those most commonly mentioned by people thinking that a middle-of-the-road (supposedly) 3rd party ticket is what America is longing for.
Podhoretz seems to think that the current national circumstances, which are unlikely to change between now and Election Day 2012 might cause Bloomberg to change his mind:
Circumstances might seem different now. The economy has barely turned around and might head downward if/when Europe implodes. The president’s poll numbers suggest he has an uphill climb to re-election. Congress’s reputation is in unprecedentedly bad shape. Republicans are showing distinct unease with their choices for president, and the public is showing unease with the GOP.
Meanwhile, independents dislike everybody. And that’s where Bloomberg might come in. Perot, another billionaire businessman with mythical technocratic prowess, rode a wave of independent disaffection to a historic 19 percent of the vote in 1992. Bloomberg has similarly unlimited resources — and he would come at the race from a stronger position as a man with real governing experience.
Circumstances are also different now because Bloomberg is not taking any evident pleasure in his job. At least Silvio Berlusconi — the media mogul who became the prime minister of Italy as the country’s richest man and is the closest analog to Bloomberg on the world stage — seemed to enjoy his time atop Italy’s greasy pole before his recent resignation.
Not our mayor. He looks tired and bored and annoyed. And there are two long years until his liberation from the third term he foolishly sought.
But what is a man who clearly loves the spotlight, the attention and the idea that he is a get-it-done guy who transcends ideological and partisan categorization to do?
I’ve got no doubt that Bloomberg has a huge ego. It is, quite honestly, as much a job requirement for the resident of Gracie Mansion as it is for the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but that’s really beside the point. Under what possible version of reality could a third party run by someone like Mike Bloomberg ever be successful? Yes, he’d have a ton of money to spend on the race if he wanted to, for certain, but what exactly would his message be other than “I’m not one of those guys.” Furthermore, if the Occupy movement has had any impact on American politics at all, then the idea of a multi-billionaire media mogul running for President would seem quite odd. Indeed, after the events of last week in Zuccotti Park, it’s pretty certain that Bloomberg would not have many fans among the Occupy movement anyway, assuming it still exists in any recognizable form on Election Day.
More importantly, the entire idea of a Bloomberg candidacy seems to begin and end within a few blocks in Lower Manhattan. Unlike the Perot phenomenon in 1992 and 1996, there’s no evidence that American have some great yearning to be led by a short, sometimes grumpy, billionaire from New York City. In fact, I’d bet that large numbers of Americans don’t really know who Bloomberg is. He may be the Mayor of America’s largest city, but he has a far lower public profile that Ed Koch or Rudy Giuliani did during their time in office. Moreover, where exactly would Bloomberg be popular enough to have a significant impact on the election? I don’t see many of the New Yorkers who voted from him three times in a row crossing lines to vote for him instead of Obama, for example. And Michael Bloomberg isn’t going to play well in Peoria. As I said last year, the only place I see any yearning for a Bloomberg candidacy is in the New York-Washington corridor among the punditocracy, for whom the idea of an all-knowing East Coast Technocrat in the White House seems to be very appealing. Or maybe it’s just that they idea appeals to them because it would give them something interesting to write about.