Why Ray Kelly Won’t Be The Next Mayor

The call for Ray Kelly to turn in his badge, and start shaking hands and kissing babies in advance of a potential 2013 mayoral run are growing louder. Last night State GOP chairman Ed Cox called for him to make a run; today, The Post (which has unabashedly been pushing this story) reported that the city’s billionaires, including Ken Langone and Hank Greenberg have climbed aboard too.

And Mr. Kelly may end up making a run. Fears of crime and terrorism are real, and they rank with housing and education as the issue New Yorkers care most about (witness the widespread support for the NYPD’s Muslim surveillance in polls.) There is concern—particularly among the city’s business elite, and more moderate white-ethnic and Jewish voters in the outer boroughs—that the current crop of Democrats are too beholden to labor and to ideology to make hard decisions, and guide the city in the manner that Mike Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani did.


But if Mr. Kelly does run, he is unlikely to follow the path cleared by Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg and keep the streak of Republican mayors alive. Here are five reasons why:


1. The Wesley Clark Phenomenon

You remember Wesley Clark. Square-jawed war hero, came out of nowhere in 2004. Among Democrats concerned about their weakness on foreign policy, there was much enthusiasm for his candidacy. And almost as soon as the Clark boom launched, it came crashing back to earth. He was a wooden campaigner, and didn’t show much enthusiasm for the drudgery of politics. Mr. Kelly will likely face the same problems. Though he is beloved in some quarters, it is for what he has done, not for who he is. Does he know how to work a room, how to convince voters that he is there to defend them? The public have a tendency to lionize military and police types, but they still want politicians who can charm them.


2. The Rubber Chicken Dinner Phenomenon

The problem is not just that voters may not like Mr. Kelly; he also may not like them very much. As head of the NYPD, when Mr. Kelly made an order, it was carried out. Running for office is an endless series of grovelling abasements, between long meetings with civic associations and would-be constituents complaining about everything from their too-loud neighbor to the War in Afghanistan. Does Mr. Kelly really have it in him to put up with it?


3. This Isn’t 1993

In a way, Mr. Kelly is a victim of his own success. Crime has been at record lows for years. In 1993, there was a sense that city was spinning out of control due to the indifferent leadership of David Dinkins. Rudolph Giuliani promised to right the ship and crack down on squeegee men and other scofflaws. New Yorkers lived the high crime rate every day. These days, crime-soaked streets mostly live on only in the popular imagination, which isn’t likely enough to spur longtime Democrats to vote Republican.


4. He’s No Mike Bloomberg

Mike Bloomberg owes his first election to two factors: 9/11, and gobs and gobs of cash. Mr. Kelly however will have to raise money the old-fashioned way—in small amounts over a long period time, while facing a Democrat who will likely have maxed out a long time ago. Even in 2009, Mr. Bloomberg may very well have lost the election to Bill Thompson were it not the glossy mailers he was able to shove into New Yorkers mailboxes on a nearly daily basis, not to mention the barrage of TV and radio ads. Mr. Kelly will instead have to rely on his high name recognition and hope that most voters like him.


5. Now Isn’t The Time

And about that. Mr. Kelly’s approval rating has proven resilient over the last couple of years of scandal. And scandals there have been—ticket fixing, rape cops, gun-running, surveillance, stop and frisk, and on and on and on. In 2009, Mr. Kelly could have maybe been credible. Once voters start paying attention, it will be hard for the stench now surrounding the NYPD to keep from rubbing off on Mr. Kelly.


Why Ray Kelly Won’t Be The Next Mayor