John Heilemann takes a look in New York magazine at the prospects of Michael Bloomberg becoming either Barack Obama’s or John McCain’s running mate.
No, I haven’t been smoking anything, but I can see why you might be wondering. The standard calculation around selecting the Tonto for a presidential ticket boils down to narrow electoral math: Who would most enhance the prospects of carrying a crucial state the nominee might otherwise not win? But Bloomberg would do nothing to alter the outcome in New York for Obama or McCain; the blueness of the state on November 4 is a lead-pipe cinch. And, despite his recent flashes of tetchiness toward anyone who annoys him, Bloomberg has inclinations toward moderation and civility that make him an improbable attack dog—the running mate’s traditional role.
So the case for Bloomberg requires you to stretch your mind a bit. But just a bit. It begins with the eminently reasonable assumption that the economy will be the central issue in the fall campaign—an issue neither Obama nor McCain has a solid handle on. Bloomberg, with his entrepreneurial background and his record of financial stewardship of Gotham, would be a boon to either runner in this department, but maybe especially to McCain, whose economic anti-cluefulness is glaring.
And, he reasons, Bloomberg should help Obama with that whole Jewish thing.
What Bloomberg would bring to Obama’s ticket would be no less significant. If the central doubt about Obama is his lack of experience (and, in particular, executive experience), Bloomberg would provide a degree of reassurance. Picking him would substantiate and reinforce Obama’s message of pragmatism and post-partisanship. And he would go a long way toward mitigating Obama’s problem with Jewish voters, a dilemma brought on by a combination of his association with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the nuthouse rumors that he is a closet Muslim, and his willingness to talk to anti-Israel crackpots such as Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Just how serious is that problem? So serious it might put Florida out of Obama’s reach. And Schoen contends it might even give him trouble in states as far-flung and unlikely as Nevada (where the electorate is 3 to 4 percent Jewish—who knew?), Colorado (1 to 2 percent), and Pennsylvania (4 to 5 percent). “For Obama, the question is, how does he get to the states John Kerry carried plus one?” says a Democratic operative. “Given his difficulties in Pennsylvania and Ohio, there’s not a lot of room for error. With Bloomberg on the ticket, Florida is back in play—especially if he’d spend, say, $50 million on Barack’s behalf there.”
But ultimately, Heilemann points out, “vice-presidential nominees rarely deliver much directly in terms of votes, let alone states.”
The main function of a veep choice, goes this line of argument, is branding. What would say more about Obama’s desire to reach beyond traditional categories and transform our politics? What, coming from McCain, would be more of a declaration of independence from the GOP?
Which ticket would Bloomberg prefer to be on (assuming he would ever accept the second slot)?
Given his druthers, which of the two would Bloomberg prefer to get the call from? His relationship with McCain has been longer, warmer, dating back many years. McCain endorsed him for mayor in 2001, long before Rudy Giuliani did; Bloomberg has hosted a book party for McCain and visited him at his ranch. But the mayor also likes Obama, seeing eye to eye with the Democrat on many issues, including Obama’s refusal to pander on the gas tax, for which Bloomberg flayed McCain and Clinton.
Check back tomorrow for a deeper look into the Jewish Veep race.