March 12, 2007

Another Billionaire Independent Bid?

Michael Bloomberg, New York Citry's billionaire mayor, will consider a run for the Presidency as an independent if he feels the two major-party nominees are too extreme, according to a key ally. His deputy mayor also keeps talking up an outsider bid, even though Bloomberg won the mayor's office as a Republican:

Mayor Bloomberg is 80% likely to launch a bid for the White House if the two major candidates come from the "extreme wings" of their party, one of his first-term advisers said.

The comment from a Columbia University professor, Ester Fuchs, keeps alive the notion that Mr. Bloomberg is mulling the possibility of entering the 2008 race even as the Democrats and Republicans who have already declared are traveling the country and campaigning.

According to ABC News, which reported the comment on its Web site, Ms. Fuchs said it was "80% probable" that Mr. Bloomberg would run as an independent if both major parties put up extreme candidates. She cited Senator Edwards, a Democrat, and Mitt Romney, a Republican and former governor of Massachusetts, as nominees who would make Mr. Bloomberg's candidacy a possibility, ABC reported. ...

Until now, one of Mr. Bloomberg's deputy mayors, Kevin Sheekey, has taken the chief role of fanning the Bloomberg-for-president speculation. Having other allies such as Ms. Fuchs outline scenarios under which he would run adds credence to the idea that he is seriously considering the matter. It also helps keep him relevant during his second, and final, term as mayor.

Perhaps Bloomberg sees himself as the next Ross Perot. Similarities exist between the two. Both amassed large fortunes in business, and both see themselves as some sort of savior for the centrists. Both argued against the "extremes" of Democrats and Republicans.

The whole idea seems rather strange. Mitt Romney hardly qualifies as an extremist, and John Edwards hardly qualifies as a candidate. Bloomberg wants attention, and this certainly gives him better coverage than his tenure as mayor. Bloomberg has spent much of that time trying to enforce silly and onerous anti-smoking laws and pursuing other personal pet peeves. He remains a popular mayor, but more than half of all New Yorkers insist they would not support him for President.

If he did run, he could do tremendous damage, just like Perot. Thanks to the Texan with the short stature and oversized ego, Bill Clinton managed to beat the first President Bush while garnering only 43% of the popular vote, as Perot leached support away from the Republicans. Bloomberg has an even larger fortune, and as Larry Sabato notes, he could pay for a presidential run out of his own pocket, bypassing the need for fund-raising. Could he have the same impact as Perot? Probably not, but with elections running on razor-thin margins the last few years, he wouldn't have to do so in order to change the results.


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