Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is running for a third term, provided that he can persuade the City Council to loosen term limits. Could that affect who he endorses in the presidential race?
Until relatively recently, it seemed fairly far-fetched that Bloomberg would actually try for another term as mayor. He'd said that he wouldn't do it. Instead, Bloomberg seemed to be mulling a run for governor in 2010.
If he had tried for governor, most of Bloomberg's support would probably have come from Republicans. David Paterson, the incumbent governor, is a Democrat. Even if Paterson decided not to run for some reason, plenty of other well-known Democrats would have considered the race, from Andrew Cuomo to Hillary Clinton.
So, Bloomberg wouldn't have had any realistic chance to be the Democratic nominee for governor of New York. His path to the governorship was as a Republican or as an independent who most Republicans (and some Democrats) supported. In that context, he's been aligning himself with Republicans in state politics by, for example, bankrolling Republican state senate candidates as part of the New York G.O.P.'s desperate attempt to keep its majority.
Whether Republicans would have accepted Bloomberg as their nominee only a few years after he left their party isn't clear to me. Perhaps it wasn't clear to Bloomberg either, which is why he may turned his attention back to a third term as mayor.
What does all of this have to do with a presidential endorsement?
If Bloomberg were trying to be the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nominee -- or, if not that, then at least someone Republican voters statewide were willing to support -- endorsing McCain would make a good bit of sense. At the very least, Bloomberg would probably want to stay neutral, instead of endorsing Obama.
Now? Bloomberg is trying to run for reelection in a city that is overwhelmingly Democratic -- far more so than New York state as a whole. Bloomberg's problem isn't with Republicans in New York City (who else are they going to support?), but with making sure he wins enough Democratic votes.
So, if Bloomberg is thinking exclusively about his own self-interest, he's now more likely to endorse Obama. Maintaining neutrality is also still a safe option.
All of this is more important for the Bloombergologists of the world -- those of us who are intrigued by the twists and turns of Michael Bloomberg's political career -- than it is to the outcome of the presidential election. One reason Bloomberg's independent presidential bid sputtered is that he lacks a large national following.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the places that know Bloomberg best, are all safe Democratic states. I'm willing to guess that the Obama campaign cares a lot more about winning endorsements from Colin Powell and Chuck Hagel than it does about Bloomberg.
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