Thursday, June 21, 2007

Perils of Bloomberg

Now officially in a Republican-free zone, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg assured a restless press corps yesterday that he would run for president only under certain conditions.

“If everybody in the world was dead, and I was the only one alive, yeah, sure,” he said with a cunning smile.

Should he mount a serious bid for the White House, it would be at his own peril, David Frum of National Review Online said yesterday.

“The first loser would be Mike Bloomberg himself. He will have to spend somewhere between $75 and $150 million to run a serious race, almost all of it from his own fortune. And since there is virtually zero compelling rationale for his race — quick: what does Mike Bloomberg stand for? — it’s impossible to imagine that he will win anything more than the 1 percent or 2 percent of the vote that is always available to fringe candidates like Ralph Nader or Jerry Brown.

“The next loser will be the charities and philanthropies Bloomberg might otherwise have supported with his campaign expenditure. It’s generally estimated that Bloomberg has donated about $150 million per year to charity over the past decade. It seems plausible that the money for his campaign will be taken from his philanthropy budget. If so, rather than supporting good works in the field of public health, millions of Bloomberg dollars will be dissipated on essentially a vanity project.

“The likely winners? The consultants, pollsters, and advertising directors who — having failed to get a piece of the action from the major presidential campaigns — will keep their children in private school and themselves in expensive timepieces with Bloomberg’s money,” Mr. Frum said.

Perot effect

A presidential run by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg would siphon off votes from the Democratic nominee, said Greg Mueller, an adviser to both Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes during their presidential campaigns in the 1990s and 2000, and president of CRC Public Relations.

“If Bloomberg gets in the race, he will take more votes from the Democrat nominee, certainly if it is Senator Hillary Clinton or Senator Barack Obama — than a conservative GOP candidate,” Mr. Mueller said yesterday. “There are many, many independents, and some Democrats, who will simply not vote for Senator Clinton under any circumstances. And, there are still others who feel Senator Obama is too inexperienced. Bloomberg gives these voters a place to go dividing the Democrat vote.”

Mr. Mueller added, “Bloomberg could be to Senator Clinton or Senator Obama in ‘08 what Ross Perot was to President George H.W. Bush in ‘92.”

Still, polls indicate that it might matter who Mr. Bloomberg’s competition is.

“Bloomberg is contemplating running at a time when the brand names of the two major parties is not doing well,” said pollster Scott Rasmussen, whose poll shows that 51 percent of New Jersey voters would consider voting for him, while just 23 percent would not. “The number of people considering themselves Republicans has dropped to the lowest level of the Bush era and the number of Democrats has just declined to the lowest level in 17 months.”

According to Rasmussen’s poll of New Jersey voters released yesterday, Mr. Bloomberg would fare best in the state against Mr. Obama and former Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican. In that hypothetical, Mr. Bloomberg ties Mr. Obama at 32 percent, and Mr. Thompson lags with 20 percent.

But he would not do as well against the two major parties’ front-running New Yorkers. In that scenario, Mrs. Clinton leads with 38 percent, followed by former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani at 29 percent and Mr. Bloomberg at 21 percent. And a Quinnipiac University poll, conducted last week and released yesterday, found that among New York state voters, Mrs. Clinton led at 43 percent, followed by Mr. Giuliani at 29 percent and Mr. Bloomberg at 16 percent.

Fencing match

Some Texans have a response to the “keep-out fence” that is slowly being built along the Mexican border to stem the never-ending stream of illegal aliens. Weary of silence from the Department of Homeland Security about the construction, the McAllen Chamber of Commerce proposes to build its own wall — this one around the Beltway.

“It’s frustrating to no end that Washington, which has no idea of what’s happening here along the border with Mexico, is proposing to build a fence,” said the chamber’s president, Steve Ahlenius. “Why don’t we just build one around D.C.? It can protect us from some bad characters, some bad legislation and some bad ideas.”

They think the border fence is one big, bad idea: It cuts off farmers from the Rio Grande, disrupts wildlife and “ruins relations with Mexican shoppers and business,” Mr. Ahlenius told the San Antonio Express-News yesterday.

No government officials have responded to the chamber’s proposal to build the Washington wall, but all 1,600 chamber members support the idea, Mr. Ahlenius said.

Moral clarity

“The test of presidential courage and leadership comes in the waning days of the administration,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a national network of pro-life political activists, after President Bush vetoed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act yesterday.

“President Bush was forceful in his defense of the tiniest human beings at the beginning of his administration. He is equally forceful now,” she said. “Such moral clarity is even more valuable now that we face a Congress that is willing to make the utilitarian sacrifice of human embryos for the completely unproven cause of embryonic-stem-cell cures.”

Senor McCain

The Arizona Republican has ideas for our neighbors to the south. During a speech before the Florida Association of Broadcasters yesterday, Sen. John McCain mapped out a diplomatic playbook.

“For decades, in Republican and Democratic administrations alike, the United States has treated Latin America as a junior partner rather than as a neighbor, like a little brother rather than as an equal. Latin America is not our back yard; Central and South America are not ‘beneath’ the United States,” Mr. McCain said.

“As a resident of a state that borders Mexico, I am acutely aware of the extraordinary contributions that our neighbors make to the United States, from trade to culture to a commitment to democracy and human rights. We share with our Latin American neighbors a deep regard for faith, family and hard work. We share a civilization and a hemisphere. And we should work — together — to create in the Americas a new model of relations between the developed and the developing world.

“If elected, I will work to create a new global League of Democracies that would give Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Peru and other great nations in the region a voice in confronting common problems based a shared values, a voice that they are denied in the United Nations Security Council.”

c Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@ washington or 202/636-3085.

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