Bloomberg’s centrist presidential test
Posted: Friday, September 24, 2010 8:01 pm
By: Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
By DOUGLAS COHN
and ELEANOR CLIFT
WASHINGTON — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not only very wealthy, he’s an astute politician, and the campaign schedule that he is keeping suggests that he thinks the Republican Party is going over a cliff with its far-right fringe candidates, and that the Democrats for different reasons may be imploding. Bloomberg senses the time is right for a third party, and while he doesn’t say that outright, his decision to campaign with and support an array of candidates from across the political spectrum underscores his conviction that the center must endure in American politics.
Bloomberg flirted with a third-party run in 2008, but the effort lost steam when the two major parties nominated candidates that were not perceived as far left or far right. Barack Obama is now seen as too liberal by much of the country, and not liberal enough by the Democratic base, while Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., moved so far to the right in both his presidential campaign and his current Senate race, that he’s lost any claim to being a maverick. Both political parties are viewed in a negative light by the voters.
The candidates Bloomberg has selected to highlight as centrists include Lincoln Chafee, a former Republican member of the Senate, who is now running for governor as an Independent in Rhode Island, former E-bay executive Meg Whitman, running for governor as a Republican in California, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), who is being challenged by Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle in Nevada. That’s an eclectic bunch to be sure, and Bloomberg’s efforts on behalf of Reid are limited to holding a fundraiser. He won’t be campaigning with him, at least not yet.
The Democrats are on the precipice of losing control of the House, and maybe even the Senate, and talk about a third party typically begins about now as the election cycle spins into overdrive and the hyper partisan rhetoric adds to the disgust the voters feel about how Washington operates. Even if the Democrats manage to hang on to their majorities, there will be significantly more Republicans in Congress after November, with those of the Tea Party persuasion even more unlikely to work across the aisle than the current crop of Republicans.
If that’s the picture that emerges, Bloomberg could end up leading a centrist third party as an Independent, or he could enlist enough disgruntled Republicans and Democrats to form a 21st century version of the DLC, the centrist Democratic group that helped pull the party to the center and pave the way for Bill Clinton to win in ’92.
The mayor doesn’t have to look far to find a core group of former officeholders who should be primed to join a credible third party effort. Republicans displaced by Tea Party insurgencies in states as geographically and ideologically varied as Alaska and Delaware might be inclined to sign on to an Independent movement aimed at 2012. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced she will run as a write-in rather than endorse Joe Miller, her Tea Party opponent, and Delaware Rep. Mike Castle has so far refused to endorse Tea Party winner Christine O’Donnell.
Bloomberg hits the campaign trail fresh from the controversy over the Islamic Cultural Center scheduled to be built two blocks from the World Trade Center. He stood firm against critics of the mosque and can claim the moral high ground in upholding constitutional principles. Bloomberg doesn’t want his third term as mayor to end his political career. Obama would like to bring him into the administration, but Bloomberg has told friends the only job he would come to Washington for is the presidency.
Published in The Messenger 9.24.10