When Mayor Mike Bloomberg returned from California last Wednesday to make a minor speech about his city’s 311 service, he was bombarded with questions from media concerning his perceived intention to run for President in 2008. Bloomberg has recently made headlines for switching his party affiliation and for blasting the two major parties for lack of bipartisanship. Despite consistent denials that he intends to run, the media can’t seem to let go of the fantasy three-way New York battle royal. The City’s tabloids had a field day with the non-announcement and The New York Times ran, not one, but two front-page above-the-fold articles on Bloomberg.
Mike Bloomberg’s political career has been an odd marriage of pragmatism and massive amounts of cash. The billionaire business man was elected thanks, in part, to a last minute endorsement from America’s mayor Rudy Giuliani. The lifelong Democrat switched party affiliation to run for the office, bypassing a grueling and unwinnable primary. Once elected the mayor pissed off just about everybody by dismantling the Board of Education, outlawing smoking in bars, promoting various development projects, raising property taxes, and floating the idea of tolls on the Brooklyn Bridge. Despite all this, Bloomy won his reelection bid and actually remains quite popular in the city: the budget is balanced; public schools are, well, ok; the bars are now pleasantly smoke-fee (and no one is complaining, anymore); the West Side stadium plan has been nixed. It seems his non-ideological, pragmatic approach has been extremely successful, lending credence to the idea that a politician not beholden to any political party or special interests might have the best chance to govern effectively.
So, is this guy really going to run? Well, Bloomberg has already stated that he intends to become a full-time philanthropist when his term is over. And, his new found status as a national figure won’t hurt his ability to raise money. But if he does throw his hat in the ring, Bloomy will most likely siphon votes away from the Dems as his view on the environment, abortion and marijuana lean heavily to the left (not only has he admitted to smoking weed, but actually claimed to enjoy it!). However, as Ross Perot showed us, a centrist message and a couple of billion dollars doesn’t necessarily win an election. My guess is Bloomberg will continue to flirt with the idea and eventually bow out; he’s not a career politician, and doesn’t intend to be one any time soon.