Monday, December 02, 2019


Politico's David Freedlander argues that Mike Bloomberg was underestimated in his 2001 run for mayor just the way he's being underestimated now.
In 2001, Bloomberg was a political unknown with a lot of money and no real ties to the party whose nomination he was seeking. He had a history of inappropriate comments. The media treated him as a joke, polls gave him almost no shot at winning, the public tired of his will-he-or-won’t-he dance about actually running, and when he did finally jump into the race, he proved to be an indifferent and wooden campaigner.

Yet less than a year after announcing he was a candidate, Bloomberg was elected the 108th mayor of New York.
As the story notes, Bloomberg gave money to Republican party organizations in the five boroughs, which won him a lot of loyalty. It's hard to see why something similar would make a difference now, when voters aren't inclined to let the endorsements of party hacks decide their vote. (See: Republican primaries, 2016.)

It's not true that "the media treated him as a joke." Here's a New York Times story that ran shortly before Bloomberg announced his candidacy:
Political Memo; G.O.P. Billionaire Haunts a Democratic Race

... Privately ... the four Democratic mayoral candidates are preparing for a situation in which their party's nominee would emerge from a debilitating and divisive intraparty contest by late September only to face a rested and extremely well-financed Republican, Mr. Bloomberg. The four-way Democratic primary, on Sept. 11, would be followed by a two-way runoff on Sept. 25, if no candidate gets 40 percent. "He will be on the sidelines, letting the four guys beat one another up, and taking the high road," said Edward I. Koch, a Democratic former mayor....

If Mr. Bloomberg runs -- his aides say it is almost certain that he will -- his candidacy seems likely to alter almost every dynamic of the mayoral election, coloring everything from the day-to-day conduct of the Democrats in the primary to the integrity of the city's public financing system for municipal elections.
When Bloomberg announced, a Times story began:
The billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg began his campaign for mayor of New York City yesterday in a Hillary Clintonesque explosion of media that left his envious Democratic competitors in his wake. From a gospel breakfast with the Harlem establishment to a walking tour of Arthur Avenue in the Bronx to a ride across New York Harbor on the Staten Island ferry, Mr. Bloomberg was trailed by a horde of reporters....
Not long afterward, there was this in the Times:
It is not as odd as it was a decade ago for a Democrat in New York City to consider voting for a Republican for mayor, one of the legacies Mr. Giuliani has left for Mr. Bloomerg (or for Herman Badillo, should he defeat Mr. Bloomberg in the Republican primary).

In addition, many old-line Democratic voters -- the kind of loyal Democrats who prompted Mr. Giuliani to seek the Liberal Party line so they would have a place to vote for him -- are being displaced on the voting rolls by first-generation immigrants. Their party loyalties are not so deeply rooted as the ethnic Democratic constituencies, from blacks to Jews to the Irish, who once made up the building blocks of New York's mayoral race.

What is more, Republican and Democratic strategists say that partisan considerations have been increasingly supplanted in mayoral elections, even in New York, by more fundamental questions of competence and management ability.

"There aren't any partisan elections here anymore," said Kevin McCabe, the former chief of staff to one of the Democratic candidates, Peter F. Vallone, the City Council speaker.
Bloomberg was ultimately endorsed by the Daily News (though the Times and Newsday endorsed his Democratic opponent, Mark Green, and the Post didn't endorse). The News endorsement read in part:
Bloomberg is tough and independent, just as a New York mayor must be. He is smart. He is accomplished. And he will bring to City Hall the kind of fresh ideas and perspective that this moment of devastating crisis demands. Bloomberg's opponent, Mark Green, has many attractive attributes. He has shown himself to be a serious candidate with serious ideas. Perhaps, in ordinary times, he would be an acceptable choice. But in this extraordinary time, Bloomberg is the candidate with the right skills.
Of course, it's absurd to argue that Bloomberg's candidacy isn't being taken seriously by the media now. It's being taken extraordinarily seriously by the elite press. It's just not being taken seriously by Democratic voters, who seem more resistant to being money-bombed than there were a generation ago (as Tom Steyer knows).

Bloomberg ran a smart campaign in 2001, and 9/11 gave him the opportunity to offer himself as a natural successor to a temporarily lionized Rudy Giuliani. But there's no similar crisis right now, except in the minds of plutocrats who feared Elizabeth Warren's candidacy until they apparently crushed it, and who'll do the same if Bernie Sanders gains traction.

Bloomberg didn't prove naysayers wrong in 2001 -- most observers understood that he could win. This is a very different campaign.

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