Two veteran political consultants from different political parties have joined forces and formed an independent committee to nudge New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg into running for President in 2008.
The two consultants, Douglas Bailey and Gerald Rafshoon, told reporters Tuesday that Bloomberg's name recognition, independent political affiliation and personal fortune make him unusually well positioned to break the partisan gridlock in Washington. "Michael Bloomberg, if he runs," said Bailey, "will be elected President of the United States."
Bailey, a Republican who worked for Gerald Ford, and Rafshoon, a Democrat who helped elect Jimmy Carter in 1976, recently resigned from a months-long project called UNITY 08 designed to encourage people to pick and elect a mixed ticket with a Republican and a Democrat for President and vice president. They are placing their bets now on a Bloomberg bid.
Bloomberg had no immediate reaction to the formation of the draft committee. Once a Republican (and before that a Democrat) who has recently become an independent, Bloomberg last week attended a forum in Oklahoma that centered in part on the need for a bipartisan-minded candidate. At that forum, as he has before, he told participants that he was "not a candidate."
At the same time, however, he has commissioned a nationwide polling and voter analysis, news reports said, presumably to explore what it would take to mount a successful third-party candidacy.
Rafshoon, who owns a film production firm, said Bloomberg's experience starting and running a global media company gives him the competence the "times and recent experiences" demand. "He's not an ideologue," said Rafshoon. "He's a problem solver. He has also run things," he said. "He has started a business, run a business. He has run a city... When you hear him talk about the issues he's not in opposition to any particular group. He's trying to find a common ground."
Bloomberg's wealth, estimated at about $11.5 billion in most reports, makes the New York mayor "beholden to no one, " said Bailey." Bloomberg "owes nothing to lobbyists, nothing to special interest groups" and could fund his candidacy with his own money.
Bailey and Rafshoon said they have yet to speak with Bloomberg about a run for President. But Bailey assured reporters that Bloomberg had no interest in being a spoiler. Bloomberg, said Bailey, would not run "unless he thinks he can win."
In order to mount a successful third-party bid, independent candidates must complete a set of complex ballot access procedures in each of the 50 states. The process usually requires candidates to submit thousands of signatures on petitions to state election boards and meet varying deadlines. In Texas, for instance, an independent candidate must file petitions with signatures equal to one percent of the total votes that were cast for governor within 61 days of the primary elections, which will be held this year on March 4. But getting on the ballot is generally not a hurdle to third-party candidates.
The Draft Bloomberg Committee is offering petitions to supporters online. In addition to raising money for Bloomberg's potential candidacy, the committee will purchase online and print ads to build support for Bloomberg's candidacy.