Monday, February 22, 2010

Will Bloomberg Run as an Independent in 2012?

Will Michael Bloomberg finally make that run for President? It seems that we have been perpetually asking that question since the 2008 race where he politically flirted with former Oklahoma Governor David Boren as a running mate. Bloomberg is, according to Forbes, the richest New Yorker and 8th richest American. Politico's John Harris told Chris Matthews on Sunday that Howard Wolfson is pushing Bloomberg 2012. It would probably be an Independent run (Bloomberg's ally, Mort Zuckerman, is also mulling an indie run against Senator Gillibrand). Wolfson, we cannot fail to note, worked for Hillary Clinton during her fiery campaign for President in 2008. The New York Times wrote of Wolfson's high profile switch from one New York political powerhouse to another:

"Mr. Wolfson’s conversion has become a source of fascination and dismay among New York Democrats, who are now on the other end of the cutting brand of politics he perfected as a chief strategist for Hillary Rodham Clinton. In the city, he is credited in political circles with pressuring Representative Anthony D. Weiner, a Democrat, to quit the mayor’s race. The switch has been cited as an example of how the billionaire mayor, who is prepared to spend as much as $100 million of his own money to win a third term, can buy the silence of even his most ardent critics — an assertion summarily dismissed by Mr. Wolfson, whose consulting firm is earning $40,000 a month from the campaign.

“The risk for someone like Howard is that he is surrendering his credibility,” said Joel Benenson, a senior political adviser to President Obama who was Mr. Weiner’s campaign pollster. “He made countless statements to the press during the presidential primaries that were wrong, and now he’s saying things that completely contradict what he said four years ago.”

For Mr. Wolfson, who in a 2005 profile boasted of never having dated a Republican, the transition has brought its share of personal and professional difficulties. Most nights this spring, he could be found in a room alone at the W hotel in Union Square — or any other hotel, he said, that he could find on Travelocity for under $300 a night — while his wife, Terri McCullough, chief of staff to the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and two children, one an infant, remained in Washington. (Ms. McCullough is on maternity leave, and the family is spending the summer together in an Upper West Side sublet).

And after years in the upper echelons of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, he remains something of an outsider in the efficient corporate culture of the Bloomberg camp, where he was initially viewed with suspicion by some veterans."

It looks as if this might happen. There is so much buzz about a third party, a "safe and sane Ross Perot," that Michael Bloomberg -- who has always had the ambition and the bank -- might be willing to ride the zeitgeist. There are even beltway whisperings of a Bloomberg-Bayh "independent party" ticket in 2012. Bayh, for his part, has professed loyalty to the President if frustration at the way Washington works. But Sundays Op-Ed page of the NYTimes looked almost like a full page ad for such a run by Bayh. Lincoln Chaffee, who is running as an Independent for Governor of Rhode Island, had an op-ed piece literally in the middle of an op-ed piece by Senator Evan Bayh (hmm) about why he is leaving the Senate.

The New York Daily News is reporting that Minnesota Independence Party Chair Jack Uldrich wants New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to run for president in 2012. "The two-party system has catastrophically failed America," Uldrich told Elizabeth Benjamin. "America needs a serious, credible independent to right our sinking ship and get it back on track to a prosperous future. There is no one better positioned than Mayor Bloomberg to accept the mantle of this immense challenge."

Bloomberg, for sure, has an independent streak. Also, an opportunistic streak. Fault lines recently opened up between the Bloomberg and Obama administrations over the KSM trials. Bloomberg, previously the most prominent backer of the Obama administration's plan to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks in Lower Manhattan, did an about face on his previous position that the trials should be held in New York City. Vice President Biden, Obama's surrogate (particularly on suburban and white collar white voter issues), went on the offensive to question Bloomberg's math. Since then, there has been a bit of a chill between New York and Washington.

Being Mayor of the media capital of the world (with billions in his deep pockets) gives Michael Bloomberg a leg up automatically. Kevin Sheekey fed the media beast a constant stream of raw meat about Bloomberg in 2008. During that 2008 race Bloomberg told people privately that he'd be willing to spend $500 million or more to finance an independent, third-party presidential campaign. Is that time now? There is even a "RunMikeRun" site.

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