Even as Michael Bloomberg was telling reporters about wanting to “serve this city” until the end of his term, some of the mayor’s professional admirers were betting that he didn’t mean it.
“Well, the word that keeps coming back to me in my head, and I don’t mean this as some kind of bumper sticker or ad, but the word is ‘proven,’” said Republican-turned-outspoken bipartisan consultant Doug Bailey, who once created presidential ads for Gerald Ford.
Mr. Bailey had founded Unity08, a group whose aim was to promote a bipartisan presidential ticket, but he bolted this week, along with cofounder Gerald Rafshoon, to help form a group intended specifically to draft Mr. Bloomberg into the presidential race.
In a phone interview, Mr. Bailey said, “He has done in New York City what needs to be done in Washington, D.C., to make the system work. He is a proven administrator. He is a proven, successful problem solver. He’s proved it in private business. He proved it in philanthropy. He’s proved it in public life. That’s pretty good for a country that has a lot of problems.
“Our job, as we see it, the one that we have defined for ourselves here, is to maximize the public awareness and presence of the potential of the Bloomberg candidacy, so that he can hear from the people on the subject,” he said.
Meanwhile, Frank MacKay, the chairman of the Independence Party of America—an entity whose profile could benefit pretty significantly if it somehow managed to attach itself to a billion-dollar presidential campaign—is touring the country in an attempt to arrange ballot access for Mr. Bloomberg in as many states as possible, should he run.
“I was in 26 states in the last 76 days,” Mr. MacKay said last week, while driving in Alabama. “Every single state that I’ve been in, we’re talking ballot access.”
“If he decides to run, I don’t care if God comes out of the sky, we’re going with Bloomberg,” Mr. MacKay said.
Mr. Bloomberg, as usual, seems to be doing just enough to keep the likes of Mr. Bailey and Mr. MacKay from looking like suckers for expending so much energy on behalf of a non-candidacy.
During a deposition hearing on Jan. 10 in relation to a lawsuit brought by a South Carolina gun dealer against the mayor, whose coalition against illegal firearms had cited the dealer for illegal sales, Mr. Bloomberg pointedly refused to answer a lawyer’s questions about his current intentions to run for president.
A few days later, on Jan. 15, Mr. Bloomberg was asked about the draft efforts at a press conference at the South Street Seaport. “It’s very flattering, but I am not a candidate for president of the United States,” the mayor answered.
He went on to say, “I’ve got a job which I think is a phenomenal job and I’m working very hard at it. And I think this administration—our second four years, the first half of it’s over, we probably did more than in the first four years. And the public seemed to like what we did in the first four years.
“So, I think we got to keep—it’s always difficult to not be a lame duck. It’s always difficult to retain your staff, to keep them excited. It’s always difficult to not rest on your laurels when you’re doing well. Hopefully, we’re on the right side of all of those things and we can continue to serve this city through the end of ’09.”
Then, asked about the financial experience voters should seek in a presidential candidate, Mr. Bloomberg answered by talking about … himself.
“You should ask yourself, among the candidates who are running for office, one of them will be selected president of the United States, how are they going to attract good people?” he said. “How are they going to get people to work together? You’ve got to get both sides of the aisle as well as both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue working together. New York City has done that. We’ve worked with a Republican Senate, a Democratic Legislature, and a Republican governor and a Democratic governor. And I think with George Pataki, we did an awful lot together. With Eliot Spitzer, we do and will continue to do an awful lot together.”