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“Bloomberg would represent a middle course, which refuses to order from the dinner menu but demands a la carte,” Morris said. “An appetizer of pro-choice, a main course of pro-growth tax policies and a dessert of tough on terror.”
The dessert could be the key to Bloomberg’s potential success as an independent presidential candidate, another reason why an association with the hawkish Lieberman pays off.
Sure, he’s a nanny-state mayor who sometimes seems more concerned about the dangers of second-hand smoke and French fries than terrorists. He talks in a rather high-pitched tone that might not strike fear into the heart of Osama bin Laden, and he’s said things like, “I don’t know why people carry guns. Guns kill people.”
But, Bloomberg succeeded Giuliani less than six months after 9/11. He has presided over the nation’s biggest terrorist target, and likely deserves some credit for the fact the city hasn’t seen another attack since. He promptly secured the city’s commuter system after the subway bombings in London. Though he hasn’t been the high profile crime fighter Giuliani was, the New York City crime rate has continued to decline under his watch.
Bloomberg won’t tolerate questionable performance, having famously fired a city employee for playing solitaire on his computer while on the clock.
Most importantly — Bloomberg could tap into the Lieberman Democrats out there. Voters who are liberal on virtually every other issue — guns, abortion, stem cell research, gay rights — but don’t quite trust the party of Howard Dean and Ned Lamont to keep them safe from terrorism would have an option in Bloomberg.
“He is a strong candidate ultimately if he wanted to run for president,” U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, a moderate Republican from Connecticut, said in an interview for this story. “Anybody who can run New York City can run anything. I could support Bloomberg for president.”
By the way, it was at a Shays fundraiser in Greenwich this summer where Bloomberg responded, “Absolutely not,” to a question about running for president, before adding, “and anybody who’s running will say exactly that.”
“Michael Bloomberg is one of the most refreshing people I have ever talked with,” Shays said. “The bottom line is, he is comfortable with himself. If he loses an election he’ll just hop into one of his jets.”
Those billions are exactly why he might not give another thought to sinking a few hundred million into a long shot independent candidacy. It’s reasonable to assume that a self-financed Bloomberg, with national prominence and actual governing experience, could outperform the 19 percent of the vote Ross Perot captured in the 1992 presidential race. If Bloomberg captured 30 percent, the presidential race would be a dead heat.
HOWEVER, THE POLITICAL WINDS ARE different today than in 1992, said James Campbell, a political science professor at the University of Buffalo, who follows presidential election trends. “I’m not sure there is a rising center,” Campbell said in an interview for this story.
Today, both sides are too concerned about the other side gaining power, Campbell said. “If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, a lot of people will try to make sure they stop her. The way to do that is not to divide the anti-Hillary vote,” Campbell said. “On the other side, Bush has been demonized by Democrats. The next Republican nominee will likely defend him. Then he’ll be seen by the Democrats as someone they really need to beat. It sets up a dynamic making it very difficult for a third party to be taken seriously.”
But if a liberal Democratic Congress overreaches and rubs voters the wrong way in the next two years, Bloomberg might be able to offer himself as a reasonable “non-partisan, problem solver,” repeating the theme of Lieberman’s post-primary campaign in Connecticut.
Back at the train station, the mayor proclaimed, “Connecticut deserves more than a party vote. â€¦ Joe Lieberman is still making decisions according to his conscience.” Invoking George Washington’s warning against “factionalism,” Lieberman said, “I’m a Democrat, Mike’s a Republican. We both understand parties are not our highest loyalty.”
And what if Bloomberg presents Lieberman with an IOU for an endorsement in 2008? It’s not as if Lieberman owes the Democrats anything given the way John Kerry, John Edwards, Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd and others jumped ship after the Lamont primary win.
Third parties were once the domain of fringe political movements. Now, the Connecticut Senate race seems to have spawned fervent rhetoric from a radical center bent on stamping out so-called ideologues. The question is, could this message sell in red and blue America?
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