Late last year, the Observer asked former Democratic consulting guru Bob Shrum if he thought Michael Bloomberg could ever be president.
His answer at the time was emphatic. "No chance,” he said. “No. He can't win the presidency as an independent."
Something seems to have changed his mind since then.
In the Daily News earlier this week, Mr. Shrum wrote a serious analysis of what he has clearly come to regard as the credible possibility of a Bloomberg bid. And at book party on the evening of June 12 for his newly published memoir, No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner, the master strategist for the Al Gore and John Kerry presidential campaigns once again seemed to suggest that under certain circumstances, it could indeed happen.
“[Bloomberg] would have to ask the question, if I do this and I don’t win, who am I going to hurt? I think, for example, the last thing in the world he’d want to do is elect Rudy Giuliani as president of the United States,” he told the approximately 100 members of his audience. “And there would have to be a need, a kind of felt need, in the electorate as the two parties closed in on their nominees that there was room for somebody else.
“I don’t think American politics is ready for a third party, but it might accommodate one. It would have to be driven by someone like Bloomberg with great wealth, independent wealth. I don’t think there’s a grassroots movement welling up that would supply 500 million or 800 million to get it off the ground, and it would have to have a rationale.”
Mr. Shrum also said that the Republican mayor could conceivably profit from the fact that, despite being a Republican, he acts like a liberal Democrat.
“You know, Bloomberg’s got this curious rationale,” Mr. Shrum said. “When he says, you know, we have to transcend partisan politics and be centrist. He’s not centrist. Here’s the guy who, instead of cutting social programs, raised taxes and raised taxes rather drastically. He’s got the most, depending on your view, progressive or extreme position on gun control of any major public figure in the country. He’s entirely pro-choice. He’s entirely pro-gay rights, makes no apologies for it. And he thinks we ought to invest billions more in education. So in a way, he’s got kind of the best of both worlds… He can go out there and say I’m this omni-competent businessman but he’s got this appeal that would actually, if the Democratic Party messed this up, might make him very attractive to a lot of voters.
“And I don’t agree with the proposition that he would have no chance to win, by the way, because he can spend so much money and not miss it.”