Feature

Bloomberg

The next Ross Perot?

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg claims he's not running for president, said Michael Goodwin in the New York Daily News. Too bad he doesn't mean it. The popular billionaire mayor last week made a big show of switching his party affiliation from Republican to independent, and is now obviously considering running for president as a third-party candidate. He shouldn't bother. Bloomberg and his supporters may enjoy imagining that the masses will tell both major parties to stuff it, but it's pure fantasy. In the last 100 years, only Teddy Roosevelt, running under the Progressive Party banner in 1912, pulled more votes than either a Democrat or a Republican, and he came in second. Bloomberg hardly seems the one to break that streak, said Joe Conason in Salon.com. 'œA divorced Jewish businessman,' he's a dull speaker with a high-pitched, whiny voice who heartily endorsed Bush/Cheney in 2004. 'œThere is almost nothing plausible about a Bloomberg bid'”except that he is able, and might be willing, to spend an obscene amount of money.'

But thanks to that money, said Froma Harrop in the Providence Journal, Bloomberg can get his message out. And it's an appealing one, especially when a growing number of Americans 'œthink that both the Democratic and Republican parties stink.' As a media entrepreneur and mayor of the nation's biggest city, Bloomberg has proved he's an innovator. He has improved public education, balanced the budget, reduced crime, and been a national leader in efforts to curb guns. If the zany Ross Perot could garner nearly 20 percent of the vote, said The San Diego Union-Tribune in an editorial, Bloomberg can't be counted out. 'œAs a pro-business fiscal conservative with moderate to liberal social views, Bloomberg would be in sync with a huge, underappreciated chunk of the electorate.'

The trouble is, said Jonathan Chait in The New Republic, Bloomberg's reputation as a feisty 'œindependent' is a myth. He was, in fact, a lifelong Democrat who became a Republican only because he didn't have a shot at winning the Democratic mayoral nomination in 2001. But to suggest now that he does not have a place in a major party is a self-serving pretense. On almost all major issues'”abortion, health care, the environment'”Bloomberg is a mainstream Democrat. If he were to switch parties to run as a Democrat, of course, 'œhe'd be condemned as a transparent opportunist.' Instead, he pretends to renounce partisan politics altogether, 'œand is praised as a visionary.' It's a neat trick, but it won't fool people for long.

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