In the same week that New York City completed its budget with a record surplus and millions in new spending for vital social service programs like the Summer Youth Employment Program, a new set of rumors has bubbled up that Mayor Mike Bloomberg might be thinking about a 2008 presidential campaign.
Mayor Bloomberg has privately said he has more than enough money to run for President - and now he may have a potential entry strategy.
Bloomberg's main political adviser, Kevin Sheekey, indicated that the mayor would be unlikely to challenge Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) - a friend who has been successful with the same category of independent voters to whom Bloomberg would appeal.
"If John McCain gets beaten to the right - which is possible in a conservative Republican primary - and if Democrats elect someone through a primary who Democrats generally view as unelectable, there's a large segment of the American electorate that is looking for something different," Sheekey said.
That disaffected segment could translate into "36% of the vote in enough states to give you an electoral win," he added.
The comment adds to the evidence that Bloomberg is seriously considering a run as 21st century version of Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire who briefly led polls for the presidency in 1992 and finished with almost 20% of the vote.
Democrats are starting to take Bloomberg's aspirations seriously - and view them warily. A Clinton adviser, Howard Wolfson, dismissed Bloomberg's presidential aspirations as "insane."
"He couldn't win," Wolfson said. "But unlike Perot, he would end up doing a lot more damage to a Democrat than a Republican."
Bloomberg has started to cast himself as an antidote to the nation's partisan divide.
"Both ends of the political spectrum share the blame" for the partisan paralysis, he said at the University of Chicago commencement this year. "And both seem unwilling to change."
First of all, Wolfson's a putz, and as a Village Elder of the Tribe of Hillary Consultants he's not exactly a neutral observer here (as Ben Smith should have pointed out at more length; maybe he did and the editor pulled it). But his comment about a Bloomberg candidacy potentially hurting the Democrat more than the Republican is very defensible. Indeed, the biggest reason I can see against a Bloomberg candidacy is that it might divide the left/center electorate and open the door for a crypto-fascist dimwit like George Felix Allen Jr. or Sam Brownshirt–-I mean, Brownback–-to win with 38 percent of the vote, or in the House of Representatives.
But unless the Democrats nominate someone really compelling--Obama, Clark, maybe Warner if he shows more charisma in the primaries, possibly Edwards--I think I'd be on board anyway. (And frankly, in such a situation I don't think Bloomberg would run; his whole thinking seems to be predicated on Hillary Clinton as the Dem nominee.) A Bloomberg presidency would be supremely good for this country. He's a fiscally responsible, socially progressive problem-solver without the baggage that any nominal Democrat would carry into the race: the degradation of the brand after thirty years of Ailes/Rove slimebaggery, and all the special-interest commitments that a Democratic presidential nominee must take on as the price of entry. The same factors, in other words, that have made Bloomberg a near-ideal, and almost universally admired, mayor of NYC.
That said, I have very serious doubts whether he could win. For one thing, he's Jewish, and he's unmarried (though his longtime girlfriend is a New York State banking official, so it's not like she'd be an embarrassment). For another, it seems like the guy has had a lot of sex--and, according to his 2001 mayoral opponent Mark Green, once told a partner who had gotten pregnant to "kill it." Beyond that, I think he's probably made a lot of uncouth remarks-–all stuff that our infantile "gotcha" press will seize upon.
But basically his candidacy would advance a message this country badly needs to hear: "Grow the fuck up."
In other words, stop worrying about whether you'd like to have a beer with the president, or whether he'd be comfortable in your church, or whether he agrees with you on a laundry list of issue positions. Pick someone who's competent and honest–-no more ideologues and charismatics.
Hey, a guy can dream.