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Jewish World Review Nov. 9, 2001 / 23 Mar-Cheshvan 5762

Bill Schneider

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The mayor of New Yawk and the King of the World -- MICHAEL BLOOMBERG may be the next mayor of New York, but Rudy Giuliani is king of the world.

At least, the political world. Bloomberg's remarkable victory establishes Giuliani's clout: three Republican victories in a row for mayor of New York. How did Bloomberg do it? Let us count the ways.

The money factor. Bloomberg spent upwards of $50 million, almost all of it his own money, blanketing the city with ads and mailings. Democrat Mark Green spent about $15 million. In the last four days of the campaign, Bloomberg spent almost as much as Green's entire campaign budget.

Did New York voters resent Bloomberg's big spending? Not really. This is New York after all, where money talks. In the Edison Media Research exit poll, 60 percent of New York City voters said they were not concerned about "the large amount of his own money that Michael Bloomberg spent on his campaign.''

The Rudy factor. Giuliani endorsed his fellow Republican Bloomberg on October 27. It was among voters who decided during the last week of the campaign that Bloomberg built up his lead, enabling him to draw even with Green and ultimately overtake the Democrat by a razor-thin margin. Yes, money talks, but Giuliani's endorsement gave it something to talk about.

In a New York Times poll taken a week before the election, nearly 60 percent of likely voters said they would vote for Giuliani if he were eligible to run for a third term. They voted two to one for Bloomberg.

The September 11 factor. New York City was ground zero, and the crisis had a transforming effect -- on Giuliani and on the mayoral campaign. In the exit poll, twice as many voters said the attack on the World Trade Center made them more likely to vote for Bloomberg (30 percent) than for Green (14 percent). Bloomberg was seen as the stronger leader who would do a better job handling the rebuilding of the damaged city.

But Bloomberg made his real breakthrough on the number one issue in importance to the city's voters: the economy, which was badly damaged by the terrorist attacks. Democrats around the country may be looking to the economy as their issue, but in New York, voters concerned about the economy went almost 60 percent for the Republican.

The minority factor. Bloomberg is Jewish. That helped in a city where almost one in five voters was Jewish. The Jewish vote split nearly evenly between the two Jewish candidates, thus neutralizing a traditional source of Democratic strength.

Another fifth of the voters were Hispanics, mostly Puerto Ricans. Hispanics have almost always voted heavily Democratic. Not this time. Hispanic voters had problems with Green because of his tough run-off campaign against a Puerto Rican opponent. As a result, the Hispanic vote also split about evenly between the two contenders.

With New York City whites going 60 percent for Bloomberg, Green showed strength in only one ethnic constituency: African-Americans, even though black enthusiasm for Green had been dampened by Al Sharpton's failure to endorse either candidate for mayor.

In the last few days of the campaign, Green brought out the only political figure who could compete with Giuliani for a following in New York -- former President (and current New Yorker) Bill Clinton. New York got its Giuliani-versus-Clinton race at last! Half of the last-minute deciders were black, and they went strongly for Green. It was almost enough to put the Democrat over. But not quite.

The Green campaign. Green ran a classic frontrunner's campaign -- safe and surprisingly passionless, given the magnitude of the trauma suffered by New Yorkers.

The two candidates were actually quite similar. Green is a liberal Democrat. Bloomberg is a fairly liberal Republicans who was a Democrat until last year, when he decided to run for mayor. The big difference: Green made his career in public life. Bloomberg made a fortune in private business. The two candidates ran on that difference.

When Green was asked to identify Bloomberg's major shortcoming, he said, "Of the two of us, I'm the only one who's spent time in the public sector. My rival hasn't spent one minute in public life.'' Statements like that enbaled Green to capture the "safety'' issue. The top two personal qualities that mattered most to New York voters were "He understands the city and its problems,'' and "He has the right experience.'' Voters who cited either went strongly for Green.

Green aimed to reassure voters that he was the safe candidate in troubled times. He bet that in a time of crisis, voters would not want to take any chances, that they would go for the more experienced choice. The same logic promotes the conventional wisdom that the terrorism crisis will help all incumbents. The New York outcome suggests that voters may not go for safety first.

And one final lesson for the GOP. Bloomberg dominated the vote among self-described moderate voters in New York. It was very different from New Jersey, where Republican Bret Schundler lost the moderate vote by 22 points. And lost the race for governor.

Since September 11, voters across the country have come to value government for its ability to provide physical and economic security. Republicans like Schundler who an anti-tax, anti-government campaign failed to capture the mood. Republicans like Schundler abandoned the mainstream and lost. Republicans like Bloomberg -- and Giuliani -- embraced the mainstream and won.

To comment on JWR contributor William Schneider's column, please click here.

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© 2001, William Schneider