If Bloomberg Runs, Who Will Run With Him?

William Cohen: The 66-year-old Republican has already demonstrated a willingness to break ranks: After leaving the Senate in 1996, he joined the Clinton administration as Defense Secretary. In the Senate, where he served three terms, he hewed to moderate tradition of Yankee Republicanism, mixing liberal social attitudes with moderate-to-conservative economic views. That independent track record, coupled with his foreign policy credentials, would make Mr. Cohen a solid addition to a Bloomberg ticket. On the flip side, his public personality tends toward the underwhelming. And given his time away from politics and government, his name probably doesn’t mean much to most voters. Bottom-line: The press would love the pick, but would the public care much?

Jim Leach: To C-Span viewers, the former Iowa congressman, defeated in one of the biggest surprises in the 2006 elections, is a well-known figure. To the other 299 million or so Americans, he is anonymous. But Mr. Leach, the most liberal Republican in the House at the time of his defeat, would probably fit well with Mr. Bloomberg. He is pro-choice, was among the handful of House Republicans to vote against authorization of the Iraq war in 2002, and opposed the extension of President Bush’s tax cuts in 2003. Mr. Leach’s defeat last year, to a college professor named Dave Loebsack, was the result of two factors: The national anti-GOP wave, and redistricting earlier in the decade, which forced Mr. Leach into a new district, where voters probably weren’t as familiar with the particulars of his ideology. Mr. Leach, 64, is much more scholarly than flashy, but Mr. Bloomberg would find in him a competent and respected campaign partner. Bottom-line: Leach would win plaudits from the press, but would he win any states?

Cory Booker: The 38-year-old Booker is in his second year as the Mayor of Newark, the violet and impoverished New Jersey City 15 miles west of Mr. Bloomberg’s New York – not ordinarily a stepping-stone to the national stage. But Mr. Booker is a bright, dynamic and fast-rising political talent, whose fight against his predecessor’s ruthless and corrupt political machine was chronicled in the 2005 documentary “Street Fight,” which was nominated for an Oscar. Within the Garden State, Mr. Booker, a Stanford athlete, Rhodes Scholar, and Yale law graduate, is seen as a potential savior of Newark and already has rock star popularity, easily topping heavyweights like Jon Corzine, Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez is statewide polls. More to the point, he and Mr. Bloomberg have formed a close working relationship, and Mr. Booker regularly cites Mr. Bloomberg’s administration as a model for his Newark efforts (he’s also raided the Bloomberg administration some of his top appointments). Mr. Booker probably has too bright a future in the Democratic Party to consider teaming with Mr. Bloomberg, but given the magnetic appeal of his personality, there’s reason to suspect his entrance onto the national political stage would evoke comparisons to Barack Obama’s at the Democratic convention in ’04. The obvious down-side of Mr. Booker is his lack of seasoning – just two years as mayor of a city of 280,000 and no foreign policy experience. A Bloomberg-Booker ticket might also be too New York/New Jersey-centric. Bottom-line: Probably won’t happen, but an intriguing wild card

Tim Penny: A 55-year-old former Democratic Congressman from Minnesota, Mr. Penny was among his party’s most aggressive deficit hawks in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, a thorn in the side of Republican and Democratic Presidents. After six terms, he left the House in 1995 and was mentioned in connection with Ross Perot’s vice-presidential slot in 1996. Mr. Penny re-emerged in 2002 as a candidate for Governor of Minnesota, seeking to replace fellow independent Jesse Ventura. But he finished distant third, with 16 percent of the vote. Bottom-line: He might be worth a call if everyone else says no

Tom Brokaw: Admittedly, this is a far-fetched idea – but maybe not as far-fetched as you might think at first. The 67-year-old Brokaw has been proposed as a political candidate before: a group of Democrats approached him about seeking their presidential nomination in 1988. Now over two years into his retirement as the anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” Mr. Brokaw remains universally recognizable, his face an instantly credible and reassuring sight for millions of Americans. For virtually all of his 22 years leading “Nightly News,” it was the highest-rated of the three network newscasts, a perch from which it now seems to be falling. Mr. Brokaw has a combination of name recognition and credibility unmatched by any national politician. That he’d even be interested in the vice-presidency seems a remote possibility. But might an independent effort designed to rise above partisan politics and unite the country have some allure to him? To run, he’d probably need to move out of state from the Upper East Side of New York, where he and Mr. Bloomberg are neighbors. Bottom-line: Crazier things have happened. I think?

Lincoln Chafee: Defeated in his Senate re-election bid last fall, the Rhode Islander doesn’t seem through with politics: He’s already being mentioned as a contender for his state’s governorship in 2010. But he owes nothing to the Republican Party to which he nominally belongs, meaning he might be receptive to an overture from Mr. Bloomberg. As a Senator, Mr. Chafee most famously cast the lone GOP vote against the Iraq war resolution in ’02. He also refused to support President Bush’s re-election in 2004, a step that even Mr. Bloomberg, himself as badly miscast as a Republican as Mr. Chafee, didn’t take. Chafee’s independence would fit well with Mr. Bloomberg, and his legislative background would complement the mayor’s executive experience nicely. But Mr. Chafee also isn’t much of a public speaker, and while he projects friendliness, he has struggled to express himself in television appearances. Bottom-line: Bloomberg can probably do better.

Ralph Nader: This one was suggested in jest by a Democrat from Maryland, who writes of a Bloomberg-Nader ticket: “If the Democrats lose in 08 they still can blame Nader – and Mike escapes scot free.”