Tuesday, June 24th, 2008
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s spirited defense of Barack Obama before a Jewish organization in Florida this week leads to the obvious questions about whether he’s positioning for a veep nomination, trying to stay politically relevant, simply speaking his conscience, or some combination of the above.
“As I’m sure many of you know, there are plenty of emails floating around the Internet targeting Jewish voters and saying that Senator Obama is secretly a Muslim, and a radical one at that,” Bloomberg told some 200 guests at a breakfast of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County. “Let’s call those rumors what they are: lies.” (Read full text here)
In addition to his comments about the presumptive Democratic nominee, Bloomberg also had some praise for Obama’s Republican counterpart, John McCain, noting that the Arizona senator has denounced some of the attacks on Obama, “which speaks to his character as a stand-up guy and an honest leader. [He] knows what it’s like to be the target of a whisper campaign. He faced the same slimy, lowball tactics during the 2000 South Carolina primary.”
Bloomberg also praised both candidates as strong supporters of Israel.
Viewed in the context of a bigger development in the campaign over the weekend, Obama’s announcement that he would opt out of public financing, thus setting aside spending limits, Bloomberg’s cozying up to the meteoric Obama might be seen as highly telling.
His two campaigns in New York demonstrated that, unlike other recent national candidates (including a fellow New Yorker who once lived in the White House) he has no qualms about using his personal fortune to get his message out, without any hopes of getting it back. (In fairness, Bloomberg does have billions more to spare than most candidates.)
Does all this suggest an Obama-Bloomberg ticket?
“I can’t see Michael Bloomberg being the vice president of anything,” says Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf, skeptically, of the former media mogul and current chief executive of New York City.
That’s not to say Obama wouldn’t want Bloomberg on board, he added.
“Would anyone want Mike Bloomberg on the ticket? The answer is yes. It certainly would answer any questions about the economy. But people generally don’t elect presidents because of vice presidents.”
Bloomberg’s speech, Sheinkopf figures, is likely a way for him to be seen defending someone against “scurrilous lies.” But the big question is whether it will matter.
“Will Florida Jews listen to Mike Bloomberg? The answer is they probably won’t. This is a speech that helps Bloomberg more than it helps Obama.” Nationally, he said, Jews in large part will still support the Democrat, regardless of the smear campaign against Obama.
“The probability of Jews is a group voting in the majority against a Democrat nationally are is about as good as Mike Bloomberg growing two heads.”