bloomberg is not running

Posted on February 28, 2008


So New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, after having flirted for months with the idea of running for president in this year’s elections and fueled endless speculation in the media, has finally decided that he would sit this one out.

What a pity.

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times today, Bloomberg stated categorically that he will not be a candidate this time round. “I listened carefully to those who encouraged me to run, but I am not — and will not be — a candidate for president,” he wrote.

It would have been great if he had decided to take a gamble after spending all that money doing polling and research to see if his run was viable. With his multi-billion dollar fortune, he was reported to be prepared to spend up to a billion dollars for his campaign as an independent, had he gone for it.

What would have been refreshing is that Bloomberg, with his wealth, would not have to be beholden to interest groups or corporations. He does not need to go campaigning to raise funds, nor does he need to shake hands with big businesses to get them to open their checkbooks. And that means no payback time to pharmaceuticals or defense companies if Bloomberg is elected president. If he said he won’t take money from lobbyists, you know he won’t be lying – the guy really does not need it, unlike the other presidential candidates.

But more than just having truckloads of money, Bloomberg could have been a welcome choice for many voters out there, be they already aligned to a political party, or independents. Socially liberal but fiscally conservative, he would have been a formidable addition to the already interesting race.

Bloomberg has quietly but effectively done his job in New York City, dialing down from the look-at-me-style of Rudy Giuliani. The statistics of what Bloomberg has done for the city speak for themselves – major crime has fallen by 30 per cent; the city’s deficit has also been cut due to prudent policies. New York City schools have shown vast improvements, math and reading scores have gone up, graduation rates are similarly rising, while more African-American and Hispanic students have also been taking part in SAT exams, thanks to bold initiatives to reform the city’s school system.

Having been a successful businessman, building his news media empire from scratch to one of the most influential business news providers, Bloomberg’s CEO skills and touch could have proven highly-valuable in the economic climate we are facing. The economy could use a sure hand and a person able to understand the problems, approach them with a problem-solving mindset and find solutions to fix them.

Bloomberg’s no-nonsense, solution-finding style is evident not only in his day-to-day running of the tough and unwieldy city of New York, but also in his piece in the NYT. “Over the past year, I have been working to raise issues that are important to New Yorkers and all Americans — and to speak plainly about common sense solutions,” he opined. “Some of these solutions have traditionally been seen as Republican, while others have been seen as Democratic. As a businessman, I never believed that either party had all the answers and, as mayor, I have seen just how true that is.”

“The changes needed in this country are straightforward enough, but there are always partisan reasons to take an easy way out. There are always special interests that will fight against any challenge to the status quo. And there are always those who will worry more about their next election than the health of our country.”

More than Senator Barack Obama, who is riding a wave of change and unity, Bloomberg has embodied it. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch has credited Bloomberg with reducing racial tensions in the city, saying his willingness to work with everybody to find solutions, was a key attribute.

It’s a shame that Bloomberg won’t be bringing to the table his pragmatic, common sense-based and non-partisan way of running things.

He had probably read the tea leaves and decided that Obama would win the Democratic Party’s nomination and would siphon off the type of voters that would have supported Bloomberg. His editorial, with his emphasis of keeping away from “partisanship and toward unity”, seems to suggest that he is behind Obama, although he wisely left off endorsing any of the remaining candidates. His support though, would surely be courted by all the hopefuls.

Some had also reckoned that he had held off a decision for too long to get his name on the ballot in time in some states. The Associated Press reported that he would need to gather hundreds of thousands of signatures. But that could be the least of his worries, given the type of organization he could have brought to bear, had he decided to throw his hat into the ring.

Well, Bloomberg is still only 65-years old and would probably remain a billionaire in the next few years. So this is unlikely to be the last time we hear of him pondering a run for the presidency.