Judging from his 2005 race, the consultant said, Mr. Bloomberg might target ads at the Arab-American community in Michigan, the German-American community in Milwaukee and each of the country’s distinct Spanish-speaking populations, which are usually addressed as one block.
“The ability to slice and dice down to that level is something candidates don’t have,” said the consultant. “The major advantage it gives you is the ability to never have to make the really tough decisions about where to compete.”
In the battleground state of West Virginia alone, the consultant foresees Mr. Bloomberg airing as many as 14 different ads. The Mayor’s money would also force the Republican and Democratic nominees to spend more. For example, advertising for a state campaign in California runs between $40 million and $80 million. Presidential nominees usually don’t spend a cent there, because it is viewed as so solidly Democratic. But Mr. Bloomberg’s aggressive advertising would compel Democrats to defend themselves with a media campaign of their own. Republicans, sensing an opportunity, would advertise there too.
Hank Sheinkopf, who helped run the campaign of Mr. Green in 2001, has seen the crushing power of Mr. Bloomberg’s millions up close.
Based on the premise of a billion-dollar budget, he thinks that Mr. Bloomberg would spend about $650 million on television, radio and Internet ads that would introduce the Mayor to voters around the country and assure them, as only television can do, that his candidacy is for real. He also foresees a $45 million polling operation to improve Mr. Bloomberg’s coveted voter database.
“Underestimating him is a major mistake,” said Mr. Sheinkopf, who argued that Mr. Bloomberg’s money granted him unparalleled freedom. “That’s the difference. And he can make your money more dear to you, because the fact of having it allows him to do certain things that drive up your cost and make you spend more.”
In 2001, Mr. Bloomberg’s enormous television buy essentially drove up the price of air time for his rivals and prevented them from gaining any traction with voters.
“They can do the mail, the call, the knock and TV,” said Mr. Benoit. “In Bloomberg’s case, he can do skywriting.”
For now, the announced candidates are seeking refuge in the notion that none of the independent candidates in recent elections have managed to rise above the spoiler role.
On Thursday, John Edwards was asked about the consequences of the Bloomberg billion at an event at Cooper Union.
“It’s obvious that somebody like Mayor Bloomberg, who has significant wealth, can have a real impact on the process,” said Mr. Edwards, who went on to advocate public financing for Presidential campaigns. With “a billion dollars of his own money, without a doubt he’d get heard. That doesn’t mean—as you know, an independent candidacy has not faired well in recent years.”
Mr. Bloomberg’s potential run is often compared to that of Ross Perot, the similarly diminutive Texas billionaire who ran an independent campaign in 1992.