POOR MIKE BLOOMBERG
I'm sure he wanted to go into his ego-trip confab in Oklahoma next week with a strong showing by either the "angry" John Edwards or the "polarizing" Hillary Clinton, as a contrast to his soothing political hermaphroditism. Alas for him, the only Democrat who came out looking like a winner was the "post-partisan" -- a guy Bloomberg pointedly avoided criticizing in a snark session held just before the caucuses:
With unusually dismissive language, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg offered tart assessments of his potential presidential rivals at a news conference on Wednesday, suggesting they are offering meaningless bromides rather than serious answers to the problems confronting the country.
On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, Mr. Bloomberg delivered his critique in language that was both sharp and coy, and likely to draw more attention as he prepares to head to Oklahoma for a conference that is widely viewed as a possible launching pad for a third-party presidential bid.
At one point, Mr. Bloomberg appeared to take aim at his predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, saying that candidates need to explain how they will fight terrorism.
"'I'm going to be tougher than the next guy' is not an answer to what you would do," the mayor said at the news conference, which was officially held to announce a drop in teenage smoking rates but veered toward the Oklahoma trip in response to a question by a reporter.
On health care, Mr. Bloomberg took a veiled swipe at former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who signed a measure requiring residents to obtain insurance or face penalties but has since distanced himself from some parts of the legislation.
"One guy had a plan that we don't know if it will work, but then he walks away from his own plan," Mr. Bloomberg said.
And on trade, the mayor seemed to be taking a dig at Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, saying, "Some people are in favor of free trade and then walk away from it."
...Mr. Bloomberg ... stayed away from comments that could be read as critical of Senator Barack Obama, with whom he held a well-publicized breakfast at a Manhattan diner a month ago....
Bloomberg seemingly got better news from the GOP caucus, where the much-mocked Mike Huckabee was the big winner -- but (yes, I'm perfectly aware of the fact that Lord Atrios doesn't want me to take this theory seriously) it's seems quite possible that the mainstream pundits are right (or are creating a self-fulfilling prophesy) and a big defeat for Romney paves the way for an even nastier defeat in New Hampshire, this time by John McCain, who (especially with the entire political establishment pulling for him and much of the GOP worrying about losing a November landslide) might then have a serious shot at the nomination.
Kevin Sheekey, the Bloomberg political aide who's known at City Hall as the "deputy mayor for running for president," has, as The New York Sun notes today, "said he will urge the mayor to run if 70% of Americans are convinced the country is on the wrong track and 40% have an unfavorable view of the Democratic and Republican candidates." Oops! Tough luck for Bloomie if McCain emerges victorious from the GOP scrum, because he's the only major candidate in either party who's under 40% disapproval in a recent Rasmussen poll (he's at 27%).
I'm far from sold on the McCain scenario, and I'm still not sure Clinton won't recover and defeat Obama. But a McCain-Obama race, with pundits gushing about both candidates' potential for cross-party outreach (even if McCain doesn't actually do anything of the sort, apart from possibly picking Lieberman as his running mate), would really be a nasty trick for fate to pull on the desperate-to-run Bloomie.
Then again, maybe Obama will run with his breakfast buddy Bloomberg. Can you imagine? McCain-Lieberman versus Obama-Bloomberg? I can. And if that happens, even I might have to pull the lever for Nader.