Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the proud owner of the two most expensive non-Presidential campaigns ever run. The $74 million he spent to run for Mayor in 2001 and the $85 million in 2005 gave him unprecedented access to New Yorkers’ airways, newspaper pages, mailboxes and personal preferences.
Those political juggernauts were limited to the five boroughs. In his potential conquest of all 50 states, Mr. Bloomberg has said privately that he could spend upward of $500 million, and his aides don’t exactly resist suggestions that his expenditures could approach a full billion.
For political professionals, the prospect of a billion-dollar Presidential campaign—made somewhat more real by the Mayor’s recent change of registration from Republican to independent—is the stuff of fantasy.
“You can take the New York City model, and you duplicate that in other cities,” said Mark Benoit, a Democratic operative who ran Representative Anthony Weiner’s 2005 New York City Mayoral campaign.
Mr. Benoit predicted widespread polling that would constantly measure the shifting attitudes of voters on every significant issue—and make some fortunate pollsters very, very rich. “It’s a consultant’s dream,” Mr. Benoit said. “It’s Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa all at once.”
In 2005, Mr. Bloomberg paid the polling and political consulting firm Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates $17.3 million, or about 20 percent of his total campaign expenditures, to find out exactly what New York City voters wanted in a Mayor. If Mr. Bloomberg spends $1 billion on a Presidential run, and Mr. Bloomberg’s pollsters get a similar chunk of the campaign budget, they stand to make $200 million.
In 2005, the media-advertising gurus at Squier Knapp Dunn earned an undisclosed percentage of Mr. Bloomberg’s $40.5 million media expenditure. In a Presidential race, the cut is usually about 7 percent, which would translate into an enormous payday given Mr. Bloomberg’s practice of bombarding voters with ads. And the direct-mail experts at the Baughhman Company, who made $4.9 million of the Mayor’s money, must surely be salivating at the prospect of licking so many more millions of envelopes.
Mr. Bloomberg’s New York campaign boggled the minds of even the most veteran political observers.
While his Democratic opponents—Mark Green in 2001 and Fernando Ferrer in 2005—scrounged for cash to keep their campaigns afloat, Mr. Bloomberg flooded the entire city with advertising. In 2001, the post–Sept. 11 spot of Rudy Giuliani embracing Mr. Bloomberg played on a seemingly incessant loop. In 2005, his ads appeared in every weekly newspaper in the city (he appeared in not one, but two, Ecuadorian papers) and his campaign literature was translated into more than 100 languages targeting local ethnic communities.
And then, there is TV.
A Democratic media consultant with Presidential campaign experience guessed that Mr. Bloomberg would simultaneously advertise on national network television, an expensive practice candidates have abandoned since 1988, and target individual markets more microscopically than any candidate ever dreamed.