I’m a little late to this party, because I’ve been otherwise occupied, but I figure there’s still time for me to play the Bloomberg speculation game. To me, it’s mind boggling that Bloomberg would consider wasting money on a presidential bid that has no shot of succeeding. For the life of me, I cannot figure out what constituency of voters he thinks he’s going to appeal to other than David Broder. He’s far too liberal for any Republican and Democrats are going to be united around their nominee. Would he really have much appeal to independents? People are always fed up with the two-party system, but it’s hard to see why swing voters would think Bloomberg is the right man for this time. When Ross Perot ran in 1992, following the end of the Cold War and the U.S. triumph in the Persian Gulf, Americans were not concerned with outside threats, but with deficits and a mild recession. Perot was able to do well in that environment, but he still didn’t get one electoral vote. Now, with the primary concerns of the electorate overseas, and the economy doing well, it’s hard to see what demand there would be for a billionaire businessman. Perhaps Bloomberg’s ego is just so big, and he has friends and advisors telling him he actually has a shot, that he’s become delusional. Or perhaps he’s just leaving the door open, and will decide based on who the nominees are in the major parties.
As for which party he would hurt? It’s too early to tell, and there are arguments to be made on both sides. You could argue that he would hurt Democrats by dividing the vote of anti-Bush, anti-incumbent independents. Or he could peel off moderate Republicans. But a lot depends on who the nominees are. If Giuliani is the Republican nominee, it may discourage Bloomberg from running, but if he ran anyway, I think it would definitely hurt Rudy. In the campaign, Bloomberg would have to tout his own record as a mayor, which would necessitate him arguing that it was an improvement over his predecessor. That would mean that Giuliani would be facing not one, but two candidates, spending millions of dollars on negative campaign ads blasting his record as mayor. Also, it would be hard for Giuliani to criticize Bloomberg’s level of experience when they both served as mayors of the same city. Bloomberg fans argue that he has been a better mayor than Giuliani was, because he was able to manage the city well without the polarization of the Giuliani era. But that’s a disingenuous argument. Rudy inherited a city in shambles, and his bulldog mentality was necessary to turn it around. Giuliani handed Bloomberg a city that, though recovering from 9/11, was still in good shape. That allowed Bloomberg to be a competent manager without having to re-fight all of the battles of the Giuliani era. Nonetheless, Bloomberg’s entrance into the race would force Rudy to defend his record on two fronts.