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Can Bloomberg Be Beaten?

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at the annual winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors earlier this month in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Official Washington may be winding down from the 2008 campaign and subsequent transition, but in New York City another big race is just getting started.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) is running for a third term -- the city council having suspended the two-term limit law late last year -- with a number of factors working in his favor: stratospheric job approval ratings, a slew of talented Democratic strategists working for his campaign and, most importantly, an unlimited personal fortune to bankroll his campaign.

All of which begs the question: Can Bloomberg be beaten?

The answer? Possibly. But, such a scenario has to be considered a long shot at the moment.

Let's examine the facts.

A new Quinnipiac poll released earlier this week showed Bloomberg with comfortable leads over both of his potential rivals -- Democrats Bill Thompson, the New York City Comptroller, and Rep. Anthony Weiner.

Bloomberg led Thompson 50 percent to 34 percent and Weiner by a nearly identical 50 percent to 35 percent. Two-thirds of those tested had a favorable opinion of Bloomberg while just 28 percent had an unfavorable opinion. Roughly half (54 percent) of all New York City voters didn't know enough about Weiner to offer an opinion of him while 69 percent didn't know enough about Thompson to offer an opinion.

"Although our numbers are strong, the mayor started his last races behind and that's how we intend to approach this race as well," said Howard Wolfson, communications director for Bloomberg's reelection bid.

Bloomberg also has demonstrated an ability to court and co-opt Democratic voters -- as he did in his first two campaigns when he ran as a Republican.

Bloomberg seems well on his way to repeating that feat again in November as he has brought on Wolfson, communications director for then Sen. Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid, and Hank Sheinkopf, a major player in New York Democratic politics, as a consultant to his bid. (Sheinkopf was seen as close to Thompson and his decision to go with Bloomberg has been received as something of a coup in the Big Apple.)

Democratic voters, too, seem less than unified against Bloomberg, according to the Quinnipiac poll. Bloomberg took 44 percent to Weiner's 42 percent in a head to head matchup while Thompson and Bloomberg each took 42 percent of Democrats in the poll.

And then there is the money. Bloomberg, the founder of a massive media empire, was rated as the 8th richest man in the United States by Forbes magazine in 2008 -- with an estimated net worth of $20 billion.

The mayor has also shown a willingness to spend freely from his own fortune during his first two campaigns -- he dropped $74 million in 2001 and $78 million in 2005 -- and there is no evidence he won't keep up that pace this November.

Couple Bloomberg's wealth with New York City's stringent campaign finance laws -- the City provides significant matching funds but caps contributions -- and either Thompson or Weiner would be fighting with one hand tied behind his back.

Given all of that, how could Bloomberg be toppled?

There is a path -- albeit it a narrow one currently.

Allies of Thompson and Weiner argue that the fact Bloomberg can't break 50 percent against either candidate despite being FAR better known shows there is clearly a large group of people open to persuasion being persuaded to vote against Bloomberg if a serious campaign is prosecuted against him.

They also believe that Bloomberg's massive personal wealth can be used against him and turned from an advantage to a burden. Put simply: In times of such economic hardship having such a rich man be the mayor of New York City will not sit well with voters, particularly as the financial outlook for the city continues to dim over the coming months.

John Collins, a spokesman for Weiner, sounded this populist note when asked about the mayoral contest. "Anthony Weiner is fighting in DC for middle class New Yorkers and a sound recovery plan, not politics," said Collins. "There will be plenty of time for campaigning."

In politics (as the last two years have proven), anything is possible and circumstances can change very quickly. But, beating Bloomberg would require a series of breaks for the Democratic candidates -- breaks they may well get but probably can't rely on. Still, this is a race -- by virtue of Bloomberg's high profile and the prominence of New York City -- that will draw significant national attention.

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 28, 2009; 4:10 PM ET
Categories:  Democratic Party , Republican Party  
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Bloomberg can be beaten because much of the so called success of his adminstration is smoke and mirrors. Crime stats, school stats are being fudged. As to his claims of stellar management also a fabrication. He did nothing to reign in pension costs, diversify our economy or tame the excesses of a corupt an incompetant city council. In fact instead he bought off the council with city money with a slush fund and everyone else with own cash. While ther is not an institution in NY he has not tried to influence with his wealth he does not have a major party line to run on. The Independents (line C) and the Republicans (line B) are sick of his eltism and pissed over term limits. He can't run without their permission and they're not giving it. That means he has to get something like 20,000 valid signatures to run on like line H. Usually that means 40,000 There is no question he can spend boatloads but Bloomberg fatigue is kicking in. The bloom is off Bloomberg.

Posted by: sharpNewYorker | January 29, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Chris, Oh but I bet you want Bloomberg to loose just so you can put a Democrat in. I mean forget the fact that he has been a great Mayor. Forget the fact that he is well liked and has accomplished things in a great way. No, you are not thinking about that. You are thinking about Democrats. Gee you are so biased. The Hell with you and your one party system. You will never get it. You are just STUPID and I feel sorry for your parents that have such a stupid child.

Posted by: poptoy1949 | January 29, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse


You are doing the same thing here you did all of last year's Democratic primaries. Bloomberg is a shoo in as NYC's next mayor.

Wiener, schwiemer, who cares. Bloomy got his third term try because he is very popular. Do not waste our time with lenghthy posts about infinite possibilities and wrinkles in the New York mayoral race. Bloomberg is unbeatable. He declined pay for his excellent mayoral services and he pays for his campaigns with his own money. The guy should run for national office.

Posted by: rfpiktor | January 29, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

I live in NYC and to put it as simply as possible, since Bloomberg took office murder rates are way down and high school graduation rates are way up.

No one is happy about him over turning his term limits but we are still going to vote for him anyway because he is doing a great job.

Also NYC was in a deep recession after 9/11 when corporations were scared to invest in the city, and it was Bloomberg not Giuliani that got the City's economy going again.

To say that Bloomberg has only overseen boom times is just wrong.

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | January 28, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Guiliani was a war time concierge leading NY out of the recession of the late 80s. Bloomberg was a peace time concierge leading NY during better times. The author has a point portraying him as a seemingly relic of the care-free boom times. Though it also seems he does NOT know how NOT to make money. Tough call.

Posted by: mtthwjmpl | January 28, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

Yes, he can and may well be beaten. After his stunt with term limits, many will take a much closer look at his administration. It has not been as rosy as the PR has had it, and he has missed many, many opportunities to improve the city and overspent in a style reminiscent of Guiliani. Instead, he has squandered goodwill on pie-in-the-sky projects (West Side Stadium, anyone?) and pandered to the usual passel of real-estate thieves, at the expense of solid municipal improvement (the 7-train station that will not be built).

We're tired of this.

Posted by: eastriverrob | January 28, 2009 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Living in NYC all my life, I can safely tell you Bloomberg has by far been the best mayor. Complain all you want about spending over 70 million in his two elections, he gave 240 million last year to charity. Education has gotten better, crime has been lowered after Guiliani's remarkable record, low income workers get a 50% bump up in what they put into savings accounts and he speaks the truth, good or bad.

Posted by: jameschirico | January 28, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

can Bloomberg be beaten? - yes. it is in the voters hands and they can choose to vote for someone else. I hope the voters of NY choose to voice for someone else instead of just going along with Bloomberg. Term limits should mean something, but Bloomberg got around that with the city council, so the best thing that the voters of NY can do is vote for someone else. I hope the voters are smart enough to have Bloomberg packing back to his penthouse.

Posted by: mj9501 | January 28, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

I'd hope that a coalition of trans-fat-eating, salt-loving, chain smoking detesters of overbearing self righteous prigs might carry the day - but I'm not counting on it.

Posted by: officermancuso | January 28, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: scrivener50 | January 28, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Bloomberg has gazillion dollars, more than even Madoff the Great.
Can he be beaten?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: Nooooo.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | January 28, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

The Borgen Project has some good info on the cost of addressing global poverty.

$30 billion: Annual shortfall to end world hunger.
$550 billion: U.S. Defense budget

Posted by: atsegga | January 28, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Well, I get to vote in this one and I'm a fan of Anthony Weiner. But Mike Bloomberg handles himself in the job as well as humanly possible. The guy's a true leader.

Still, lots of people are upset that he had the rules changed to allow him to run for a third term. That will cost him plenty of votes.

Me, I don't like term limits. I should be allowed to vote for anyone I wish.

Whether I'll vote for Bloomberg or Weiner, I'll have to see how their respective campaigns go. (Same goes for Thompson.)

Posted by: dognabbit | January 28, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Of course Bloomberg will win a third term.

The interesting question, though, is what he does after that (if he wants a future in politics).

New Yorkers tend to sour on their executives after three terms (Koch in the city, Cuomo and Pataki in Albany).

After he's reelected, I'm thinking he might just turn around and run for Governor.

Paterson has hurt himself with the Gillibrand appointment, and today's NYT piece about her anti-immigrant positions in the House aren't winning her many new fans.

Posted by: Bondosan | January 28, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

This should have been the shortest blog post ever:

"Can Bloomberg Be Beaten?


Posted by: billmcg1 | January 28, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

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