From all the media chatter that follows in the wake of her every move, you would think Sarah Palin was the only viable candidate for President against Barack Obama in 2012. But one would be wise to watch a real political pit bull in action: a more savvy, well-connected, and extremely well-funded politician who also has his eyes on the White House, current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But he doesn't do it for the money. He does it because it's there.
It could have been his year in 2008. He had reportedly set aside a million dollars early in the race to evaluate his chances. But the furious clash of titans that became the duel between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and Republican John McCain's solid surge in the polls appeared to cool him off to the idea. There was a risk his role would morph into that of a spoiler rather than a bona fide contender. And so he bowed out of consideration.
Today, apparently cruising toward a third term as New York City Mayor, Bloomberg keeps a cone of silence around his larger political ambitions. He insists the reputation-bruising battle he fought to repeal the city's term limit law, allowing him to run for a third term as mayor, was motivated by a burning desire to utilize his business savvy to guide the city through the current economic crisis. Yet, to a man of Bloomberg's outsized ego and fierce belief in his own personal Manifest Destiny, New York City, at this point, is probably just chump change. For Bloomberg - one of the richest men in the world with $16 billion - the real money shot is the Oval Office. As mayor, he keeps himself in the national spotlight. As a private citizen, he would fade away.
Bloom is off the Rose
Yet, Barrack Obama's stunning success in 2008 and his tremendous popularity on the international stage must have initially given Bloomberg cause for worry. It looked for a moment as if he would be facing a formidable, practically invincible opponent.
Until now. Six months into Obama's presidency, the economy continues to drag the country down and the Middle East remains a minefield of potential missteps. North Korea's capricious behavior also adds to the growing impatience of an American public that expects every problem to be solved within the 90-minute run of the typical Hollywood movie. And now, the messy health care reform package is bringing out the critics.
Objects Are Closer Than They Appear
With Obama's shield of impenetrability beginning to weaken, Bloomberg's hopes are reviving again. However, he must first lock in his third term as New York City mayor in November before making his move - and lately, he's hit a few bumps in the road. He still leads his closest rival, city Comptroller Bill Thompson, by a comfortable margin; yet, despite already pouring millions into his campaign, polls show Bloomberg's popularity and voter approval ratings slipping somewhat.
Recently, Bloomberg lost the endorsement of the labor-backed Working Families Party to Thompson. Another union, CSEA Local 1000, also threw its support to Thompson. All this before Thompson has spent any real money on his campaign. While none are major endorsements, they are considered significant in that they reveal a chink in Bloomberg's own armor of impenetrability. They put Bloomberg on notice that he can't afford to take anything for granted. Smart campaigning by Thompson, or a major misstep on Bloomberg's part, could put Thompson within striking distance.
Once, it was assumed that the record $100 million Bloomberg has threatened to spend on his mayoral campaign was overkill. Now, it may prove to be barely enough to take him over the top.