‘Bloomberg For President’ Redux

Here we go again.

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is being encouraged to run as an independent after a concerted attempt to get him to run in 2008 went nowhere.

There was even a web site — Run Mike Run— that was set up to persuade him to throw his hat into the ring. But Bloomberg didn’t bite – and the web site is still there.

“Should events encourage Mr. Bloomberg to reconsider for 2012, this site will be here to assist in that cause,” it says.

Now Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist, is calling on Bloomberg to “reconsider running as an independent candidate.” Friedman says Bloomberg doesn’t have to “win to succeed – or even stay in the race to the end.” He argues that simply by entering the race “if only to participate in the presidential debates and give our two-party system the shock it needs” the country would be the winner.

His presence in the race would “change the dynamic of the election … [by] offering sensible programs” and compel Barack Obama and Mitt Romney “to gravitate to some of his positions as Election Day neared. … By taking part in the televised debates, he could impose a dose of reality on the election that would otherwise be missing.”

This column ran Wednesday, April 18. That afternoon, Stu Loeser, Bloomberg’s press secretary, sent me the following e-mail when I asked Bloomberg’s reaction to the column: “He’s not going to run for President.”

But (partisan) political consultant Hank Sheinkopf says the country would be the loser if he didn’t run.

“A Mike Bloomberg campaign would be fresh air in a country where image and poll numbers seem to matter more than the long term dangers this nation faces economically,” he said. “Bloomberg would be a spectacular presidential candidate. He would raise issues, and we’d have a real discussion because he’s not a politician. We need that kind of campaign.”

Sheinkopf knows Bloomberg well, having worked for him in 2009.

“I have tremendous personal regard for him,” he said. “Anyone who understands politics in the region knows he saved the city after 9-11 because he restored confidence in the business community. And he could do the same thing nationally. He knows how to bring people together and to deal with problems between business and labor. … He is very smart with an extraordinary grasp of difficult issues. This is the international city of this country. He’s done rather well with it and there is no reason why he couldn’t do that well nationally and internationally.”

But should Bloomberg change his mind, he shouldn’t enter the race half-heartedly and expect to bow out before Election Day. Should he go all the way, he may find more support than generally believed. A new book has found that there are more independent voters than those who identify as Republicans or Democrats.

The book, “A Partisan America” by Russell Dalton, a professor of political science at the University of California, Irvine, points out that the percentage of Americans who consider themselves independent jumped from 23 percent in 1952 to 40 percent in 2008. Most of the shift today comes from former Democrats, Dalton said, whereas in the past “independents used to [attract] people at the margins of politics, less educated, less interested, who wouldn’t vote – people at the periphery.”

Interesting, Dalton said, the growth of independents comes from the young, educated, politically engaged people who are “turned off by political parties” but are interested in politics and who do vote.

“They won’t vote out of loyalty, but out of issues,” he added. “That’s what injected volatility into the [presidential] campaign.”

Obama generated tremendous enthusiasm four years ago, particularly among young people. The fact that he and Romney are now tied in the polls indicates that support has slipped considerably, suggesting that Friedman may have a point in calling on Bloomberg to run.

What do you think?

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.