Michael Bloomberg’s Last Chance

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

News that Mayor Bloomberg may yet get into the race for president if Joe Biden fades certainly piques our interest, if no one else’s. Then again, too, for years we’ve been urging His Honor to throw his net worth into the race. The contrast between the success of his mayoralty and the failure of that of his leftist successor could well be a marker of the crossroads the Democrats are approaching.

That Mr. Bloomberg is rethinking his decision to forego a race showed up Monday on CNBC, which is where we caught the news. It reported that the ex-mayor of New York “has indicated to associates” that “Joe Biden’s recent struggles are making him rethink his decision to stay out of the 2020 Democratic primary.” By our lights that would be a great exchange for the Democratic Party.

Certainly Mr. Bloomberg has the fortune for a race (he’s rated above $50 billion). “I think it’s something he wants,” one of Mr. Bloomberg’s allies is quoted by CNBC as saying. It quotes a banker as saying that Mr. Bloomberg is “like everyone else; they can’t get it out of their system.” CNBC quotes “another New York billionaire” as saying: “Bloomberg is in if Biden is out.”

Whatever else one thinks of Mr. Bloomberg’s views — they are a kiloparsec to our left on many issues — it’s hard to fault him on ethics or judgment, though what judgment possessed him to oppose John Roberts for Chief Justice we’ll never understand. In any event, it’s just hard to imagine him letting himself become trapped in the kind of predicament Mr. Biden is in.

The real question is whether there is anyone who is going to pick up the timbers with which the centrist and winning Democratic platforms have traditionally been constructed. One senses that Mr. Biden is tempted. He seems, though, either too timid, old, muddle-headed, or slow, to rise to the occasion — on taxes, anti-business regulations, or foreign policy. Mr. Bloomberg would have to come out fighting.

Our own guess is that the three-term mayor could do that if he can just get over his Hamlet streak (a to-be-or-not-to-be attitude once captured by cartoonist Elliott Banfield when His Honor was first trying to decide whether to run for president). Whenever Mr. Bloomberg was asked about running, back in the day, he would always answer that he would run only if he thought he could actually win.

Mr. Bloomberg isn’t the only hyper rich American who dreams of being president. Tycoons as various as Oprah Winfrey, say, and Jamie Dimon have fetched up in news. We’d have welcomed any of them into the fray. Our estimate is that the realities of political life would quickly sort out the political wheat from the political chaff; the hustings are littered with examples of how hard it is to simply purchase a political victory.

Yet how can one tell without getting into the race? In that respect it seems to us that President Trump has taught the whole billionaire class a lesson in optimism and patriotism. Every poll in the galaxy was predicting he would lose. Yet he entered the race. He was ridiculed all the way to the Republican nomination and then all the way to November. The rest is history.

We’re not suggesting it’s not a long, long shot for Mr. Bloomberg. If we were still a Democrat, though, we’d be rooting for him to throw his hat in the ring. Mr. Biden is too frail an anchor to any kind of traditional liberalism. Mr. Trump proved that it’s hard to predict what might happen. This isn’t an endorsement, but we could think of worse tickets for the Democrats than Bloomberg-Klobuchar or Bloomberg-Buttigieg.


Image: Drawing by Elliott Banfield; New York Sun archive.

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