A HUZZAH FROM HIZZONER
I Like Mike. So Will You.
Will he or won't he?
I believe that at the end of this year or in early 2008, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will announce that he's running for president.
I have no inside sources. I am not a close personal friend of the mayor's. My soothsaying is simply based on many years of experience in running for public office, helping others run and watching political campaigns from the sidelines. And even from the sidelines, it's obvious that Bloomberg is doing everything a pro would do to prepare for a national run.
He is everywhere, a true bicoastal man. His media coverage -- the lifeblood of politics -- has been phenomenal. Better yet, he has been a terrific leader, showing real bravery in dealing with the fallout from 9/11, improving New York schools, driving down major crime by 30 percent and slashing the deficit left by Rudy Giuliani's second-term spending spree.
In fact, Bloomberg's approach is a far cry from that of the combative Giuliani, whom national audiences are just starting to truly get to know. A comparison of Bloomberg's terms in office and accomplishments with Rudy's would unsettle Giuliani -- just look at those crime rates. Some portray Bloomberg's approach to government as that of a technocrat. Others use the terms businessman or CEO. I prefer a different description: "governs with common sense." That would be a pleasant change in Washington, just as it has been in New York.
But Bloomberg brought more than managerial talent to City Hall: Current estimates of his wealth are in the neighborhood of $15 billion -- a very nice neighborhood indeed. With a bankroll like that, candidate Bloomberg wouldn't have to beg or borrow campaign money, public or private. He has financed his political career from petty cash. In his first run for mayor, he spent $74 million; when he ran for his second term, he spent $85 million.
Money like that buys a lot of exposure. In his first campaign, he was barely known to most voters. But lavish spending on TV commercials brought his ideas to the public. In a Democratic town, where Republicans have to work hard to win public office, his margin of victory was an unexpected 2 percent.
Some observers say that Mayor Mike was just lucky in 2001, claiming that his Democratic opponent, Mark Green, lost the election, not that Bloomberg won it. They also claim that the trauma of 9/11 and Bloomberg's endorsement by Giuliani -- widely regarded as a hero in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks -- put him in office. But Bloomberg's 2005 run for reelection convinced the doubters. He campaigned like a rock star, winning with a landslide 19 percent over Democrat Fernando Ferrer, a well-liked and well-known Bronx politician. Bloomberg's electoral triumph is all the more impressive because it took place in a city that is nearly two-thirds black and Hispanic and has a substantial number of "progressive" whites who view themselves as more radical than liberals. And yet the billionaire Republican won in a walk. That bodes pretty well for a national run.
I was part of both Bloomberg campaigns. (Truth in packaging: I appear weekly on Bloomberg Radio as a paid commentator.) After the 2001 primaries, I got a call from his closest campaign adviser, Patricia E. Harris, who's now first deputy mayor. She had joined my administration in 1978 when she was 22 and served superbly as my assistant and as executive director of the Art Commission. Patti asked if I would consider endorsing Mike. Having just backed Ferrer in the Democratic primaries only to see him lose to Green, I wasn't thrilled. "I've already had a loser," I told her. "I don't need another. He's 14 points behind," with just two weeks before the election. "Well, can we stay in touch?" Patti asked. Thinking her cause was hopeless but trying to be nice, I said yes.
A week later, Patti called again. "Mike is down only four points!" she said. "I'm in," I replied.
Bloomberg's rise in the polls was the result of a very well-run campaign. There is no question that one key to his surprising victory was the endorsement he received from Giuliani. And I believe my endorsement, as a recent Democratic mayor, helped as well. I endorsed him again in 2005, and I've never regretted it.