- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2007

Some Republican activists hope New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg will make a third-party run for the presidency — predicting it would siphon votes from the Democrats’ nominee and greatly help the party’s contender next year.

“Ideologically, Bloomberg is much more aligned with the Democrat base than with Republicans,” says Republican direct-mail fundraiser Richard Norman. “The more effective his campaign, the more he spends, the more he hurts the presumptive Democrat nominee, Senator [Hillary Rodham] Clinton.”

A political operative close to the mayor’s operation says New York Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheeky and some top Bloomberg advisers are urging the billionaire mayor to make a bid for the presidency in 2008. Mr. Bloomberg repeatedly has said he will not do so.

“It’s about 50-50 that Michael will go for it, and if he does I think it would probably help Republicans,” says David Norcross, a friend of the New York mayor and chairman of the Republican National Committee’s Rules Committee.

“If Mike does run, it will be because the other options bore him. He’s definitely not interested in governor,” says Mr. Norcross, who oversaw the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York and supports Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor.

Conventional wisdom had been that a presidential challenge by Mr. Bloomberg, who won his two mayoral terms as a Republican, would hurt the Republicans.

But John McLaughlin, pollster for former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson’s presidential nomination campaign, said that phenomenon would be short-lived.

“As time went on and the two candidates’ positions were examined, Bloomberg would draw liberals and moderates from the Democrats,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat and former governor of Virginia, agrees.

“If the mayor runs, he obviously hurts the Democrats,” Mr. Wilder said. “Most Democrats believe he truly is ‘one of them.’ ”

Mr. Bloomberg left the Republican Party in June to become an independent, after telling aides he would spend $1 billion of his own money if he decides to run for the presidency.

A Gallup poll then found that 12 percent of registered voters nationally would vote for him in a three-way matchup with New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as the Democrats’ nominee and former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, the Republican front-runner in national polls.

Pollster John Zogby isn’t predicting Mr. Bloomberg will drive the Democratic nominee off the road, but he sees the possibility.

“The top three things voters tell us they are looking for in a president this year is competence as a manager, ability to cross the aisle and work with the other side and ability to manage the military,” Mr. Zogby said. “Bloomberg can score on all three counts.”

Mr. McLaughlin notes that H. Ross Perot, who led then-President George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in a three-way race in June 1992, wound up third with 19 percent of the vote but denied Mr. Bush reelection.

“Unlike Perot, who polled high in the beginning and then fell, Mike Bloomberg would start in single digits and then start advertising his message and move up,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “He would be more of a factor precisely by drawing on voters the Democrats are counting upon winning.”

For Republican election-law specialist Cleta Mitchell, the calculus of a three-way contest is simple: “Bloomberg would hurt Democrats. Conservatives aren’t going to vote for him anyway. He’s not a real Republican.”

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