The Bloomberg for president buzz has reached West Medford, Mass., the commercial epicenter of a neighborhood of suburban homes, including the one Mayor Bloomberg grew up in. Anticipation of Super Tuesday looms over the downtown stretch of beauty parlors, a candy store, a pizza place, and a coffee shop.
Today is make-or-break for Mr. Bloomberg's notion of a running as an independent presidential candidate. Whatever happens nationally, whether Mitt Romney or John McCain wins the Republican nomination, one factor Mr. Bloomberg should consider is how he would do in his hometown where his mother, Charlotte Bloomberg, still lives. Medford's mayor, Michael McGlynn, whose daughter served as the chief of staff to the presidential campaign of John Edwards, backed the former senator until last week.
Now he is supporting Senator Clinton. Mr. McGlynn thinks the New York senator best understands urban issues and noted the Clintons' support for public safety and housing programs. "The Clintons understood that whatever problems we had, they were going to have on a national level as well," Mr. McGlynn said. But he also has a soft spot for Mayor Bloomberg. "He's a guy who, if you look at him, has grown tremendously in that job," Mayor McGlynn. "Right now, my allegiance is to Hillary, unless his mother calls me," he said.
Conversations with a cross section of the neighborhood's voters suggest that Mr. Bloomberg would have an uphill climb ahead of him. Most residents, many of whom are Democrats, were not interested in a Bloomberg candidacy. Others simply rolled their eyes or uttered "no" when asked if they would talk about Mr. Bloomberg's presidential prospects. Although there are a sufficient amount of voters that said they don't know enough about him to speculate what would happen if Mr. Bloomberg got into the race.
The foot and car traffic was heavy at Dunkin' Donuts, where Harry Gaines, a Democrat, was sipping coffee. "I have not really decided yet, but I lean toward Barack." Asked what he likes about Mr. Obama, Mr. Gaines said "his honesty, his youthfulness."
Of Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Gaines was somewhat dismissive. "I don't know," Mr. Gaines said. "He doesn't impress me."
Another patron, James Hogan, said he supports Senator Clinton. "I'm voting for Hillary," Mr. Hogan said, adding that he thinks Mr. Bloomberg won't run for president. Nearby, a descendant of Franklin Pierce, America's fourteenth president, Ann Mercier, said, "I don't know much about him."
Down the street from the coffee shop chain, children filed into Camille's, the neighborhood's candy and ice cream store. James Kennedy, a supporter of Mr. Obama, and his wife were looking after their grandchildren. Mr. Kennedy voiced opposition to an independent candidacy for Mr. Bloomberg. "I wouldn't vote for an independent because it might prevent a Democrat from winning," Mr. Kennedy said.
While West Medford, a subsection of Medford, Mass., is not the most varied town, it does contain diverse political opinions. Each morning a group of men gathers at the Paul Revere Restaurant. The debate among them one day was about their former governor, Mitt Romney, and who would support him. "Most people in this neighborhood had high hopes for Mitt Romney," the owner of the nearby Cincotti Funeral Home, Ronald Defronzo, said. "A lot of them are going to go where Giuliani said to go, with John McCain," he added.
Though Mr. Defronzo, who stopped to wave at several neighborhood residents passing by, did have words of praise for New York's mayor. "People here would love to see him in it, a Medford son," Mr. De Fronzo said. "His mother lives right around the corner."
Given Mr. Bloomberg's characteristic decisiveness, Mr. Defronzo said he doubted that the New York mayor would run for president. "I don't think he's going to get into it. If he was in it, I'd think he'd be in it from the beginning."
If Mr. Bloomberg does decide to enter the race, he may become a victim of a primary nomination fight that is lasting longer than expected. The more time lavished on the Democratic and Republican candidates in the primaries, the less time there is for the public to grow an appetite for an additional person. Although that may change depending upon tonight's results.
Mr. Gitell (gitell.com) is a contributing editor of The New York Sun.