Michael Bloomberg, President Obama and the Fix Endorsement Hierarchy

November 1, 2012

New York City Michael Bloomberg waded into the 2012 presidential race today, throwing his not-inconsiderable national brand behind the candidacy of President Obama.


Bloomberg's endorsement, which was announced in an op-ed piece the mayor wrote for his eponymous news site, was faint in its praise for the incumbent -- knocking Obama for having "devoted little time and effort to developing and sustaining a coalition of centrists" and calling the last four years "disappointing".

But, Bloomberg also hit former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney for his decision to walk away from previously-stated positions on climate change, immigration and health care among other issues. "If the 1994 or 2003 version of Mitt Romney were running for president, I may well have voted for him," wrote Bloomberg.

In the end, Bloomberg seems to have concluded that Obama was the best of two poor(ish) choices because of his positions on gay rights, abortion and climate change; "If he listens to people on both sides of the aisle, and builds the trust of moderates, he can fulfill the hope he inspired four years ago and lead our country toward a better future for my children and yours. And that’s why I will be voting for him," wrote the mayor of the incumbent president.

So, you might wonder, where does the Bloomberg endorsement of Obama fit into the much ballyhooed Fix Endorsement Hierarchy? (Not familiar with the Endorsement Hierarchy? It's our attempt to rank endorsements from most to least important; a full list of categories is at the bottom of this post.)

To our mind, the Bloomberg endorsement is a combination of two Fix Endorsement Hierarchy categories: the national endorsement and the "me for me" endorsement.

First, the national endorsement piece. Bloomberg is the mayor of the biggest and most high-profile city in the country. His advocacy for gun control and against sugary drinks has given him a national platform.  His wealth -- and willingness to spend it in pursuit of his political/policy aims -- means he is taken seriously. 

Add those two last sentences up -- can you add sentences up? -- and the Bloomberg endorsement is sure to gets lots and lots of attention from the national media. And, there is a case to be made that there is some segment of independent/unaligned voters who see Bloomberg as their guiding light and could be swayed by his decision to back Obama. 

But, Bloomberg's reach and impact seems to be primarily centered in the Acela corridor -- NYC to DC, which is not exactly chock full of swing voters.  The New Republic's Alec MacGillis got it exactly right in this tweet:

The bigger piece of the Bloomberg endorsement is the "Me for Me" element. Read Bloomberg's op-ed; 95 percent of it is why neither Obama nor Romney have taken the right course -- aka the course Bloomberg has pursued -- when it comes to immigration, climate change and so on and so forth.

The primary goal of the Bloomberg endorsement of Obama seems to be to burnish the Mayor's own credentials as a reformer with results (with apologies to John McCain).  Bloomberg is clearly interested in staying in the national political conversation beyond the close of his third term in 2013 -- his recent decision to start a super PAC is evidence of that fact -- and by inserting himself into the presidential race he furthers that goal.

The big winner of the Bloomberg endorsement is Bloomberg. Given that, we judge this to be 75 percent "Me for Me" endorsement and 25 percent national endorsement.

The Fix Endorsement Hierarchy (ranked in order of importance)

* The Symbolic Endorsement: Former Florida governor Jeb Bush endorsing Mitt Romney for president.

* The National Endorsement: Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty for Romney.

* The In-State Statewide Endorsement: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist throwing his support to Sen. John McCain just before the Sunshine State presidential primary in 2008.

* The Celebrity Endorsement: Chuck Norris for Mike Huckabee in 2008; Oprah for Obama.

* The Newspaper Endorsement: The Washington Post endorsing state Sen. Creigh Deeds in the 2009 Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary.

* Out-of-State Statewide Endorsement: South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint endorsing former Florida state House Speaker Marco Rubio in the 2010 Senate primary.

* The What Goes Around Comes Around Endorsement: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani endorsing Rubio.

* The Obligatory Endorsement: George W. Bush endorsing McCain’s presidential bid in 2008.

* The “Me for Me” Endorsement: Former senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) endorsing Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak’s (D) 2010 Senate campaign.

* The Non-Endorsement Endorsement: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) passing on an endorsement of Sen. David Vitter’s (R) 2010 reelection bid.

* The Backfire Endorsement: Former Vice President Al Gore endorsing former Vermont governor Howard Dean in the 2004 presidential race.

* The Pariah Endorsement: Jailed former congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham backing Newt Gingrich.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Ryan Kellett · November 1, 2012