Michael Bloomberg endorses Obama

 

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed President Obama on Thursday, citing climate change as the primary factor and Hurricane Sandy as the event that impelled him to make a choice. 

“The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast — in lost lives, lost homes and lost business — brought the stakes of next Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief,” the political independent wrote in an op-ed on Bloomberg View, part of his media empire. “Our climate is changing. ... We need leadership from the White House." Obama, he said, "has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption." 

Many experts say that the increasing likelihood of extreme weather due to climate change and the prospect of future sea level rise means a rising risk of floods for much of the country. 

Bloomberg turned down an offer from Obama to visit New York City this week, saying he didn't mean to "diss" the president but was simply too busy dealing with storm fallout. 

The billionaire mayor, who is serving his third term, praised Romney for his business acumen and past moderation. 

"If the 1994 or 2003 version of Mitt Romney were running for president, I may well have voted for him because, like so many other independents, I have found the past four years to be, in a word, disappointing," he wrote. And he accused Obama of embracing "a divisive populist agenda focused more on redistributing income than creating it." But, he said, Romney has "reversed course" on all of his "sensible positions." 

In 2004, when Romney was governor of Massachusetts, his administration came out with a detailed plan to combat carbon pollution. As recently as mid-2011, he spoke of the importance of reducing emissions. But since then he's suggested that combating rising temperatures would hurt the economy. He's attacked Environmental Protection Agency regulations as harmful to the coal industry. At the Republican National Convention, he mocked Obama's attempts to tackle global warming as grandiose, saying, “President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet." 

Obama hasn't made global warming a priority, though he has taken smaller steps to combat carbon pollution. His advisers have frequently said that they would like to do more on climate change but think the politics are impossible. 

The mayor also cited the education competition Race to the Top, health-care reform, gay marriage and abortion rights as reasons to vote for Obama. 

Bloomberg was overheard this year saying he would stay neutral in the presidential race. In a private conversation at a charity event in June, he said he thought Romney would be a better manager but that he couldn't endorse the Republican's positions on gun control and abortion. He has criticized both candidates for not tackling gun control legislation. 

Bloomberg, a rare independent who champions his own set of issues, attracts a lot of media attention. (He's also started throwing money around in downballot races.) It's doubtful that the endorsement of the wealthy mayor of a liberal big city will sway voters in swing states. But the endorsement does bring climate change, an issue almost completely ignored in this election, back into the debate. 

Rachel Weiner covers cops and courts in Arlington and Alexandria.
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