To most political observers, the near-certainty that John McCain will be the Republican nominee ends any prospects for a Michael Bloomberg candidacy as an independent. Alas, Bloomberg begs to differ. He reportedly sees the current state of play as another opening for his presidential dreams.
After telling friends he believes Hillary Clinton will be her party's nominee, Bloomberg said at a recent event, "Hillary should pray I get in the race because that would help her," according to a source quoted in the New York Daily News gossip column Rush & Molloy.
Bloomberg, whose office would neither confirm nor deny he made the remarks, is half-right in his overview of the campaign. The odds have shifted to Clinton's favor since Barack Obama failed to knock her out on Super Tuesday. It's the second time Obama had her down but couldn't finish her. She was reeling after his win in Iowa, but her tears saved her in New Hampshire.
Even after all he has achieved, Obama, as the rookie running against the party's Queen Mum, still carries the burden of proving he can dethrone Clinton. If the virtual tie in delegates holds, it will be broken in Clinton's favor by the establishment roster of super delegates.
That would set up the fall showdown between Clinton and McCain that Bloomberg envisions. So far, so good. It's when the mayor says his running would help Clinton that I start to wonder what Bloomy is smoking.
The far more likely scenario is that Bloomberg would take most of his votes from Clinton and hand an otherwise close election to McCain.
The logic is political. Bloomberg, a former Democrat and a former Republican, fancies himself a center-right moderate who, like McCain, could appeal to independents as well as most of the Republican base. But seen through the national prism, Bloomberg's self-image would be shredded by his gun-control, pro-gay marriage, tax-and-spend, big-government record as mayor.
He's not only liberal. He's far more liberal than Clinton or Obama. Think Ralph Nader with money.
Certainly that's how McCain's team would paint Bloomberg. Take away his name, list his positions and the portrait emerges of a left-wing Democrat. Throw in odds and ends he pays poor kids to show up for school tests and families to visit doctors and you have a radical like Michael Moore.
Then there's Iraq. Bloomberg has ducked it as though it's beneath him to take a position. As a pundit said on another topic, how many delegates are there in the state of denial?
Of course, Bloomberg wouldn't be a potted-plant as a candidate. Even as he tells ordinary New Yorkers he's not running, he tells his friends he'd spend $1 billion. Most of it would go for TV ads, which would emphasize his real accomplishments as mayor cooling race relations and a host of health-care initiatives. With Dublin bars and Paris restaurants following New York's lead in snuffing out smoking, he's made a global difference. But his going so far as to force restaurant calorie counts and a ban on certain cooking ingredients mark him as a nanny-state liberal.
And don't forget the Electoral College. No poll I've seen shows Bloomberg winning a single state vote even New York. And that's after a drumbeat from Bloomberg's paid backers and propagandalike gushing in Newsweek and Time magazines.
In the end, Bloomberg looks doomed to suffer the fate of all independent White House runs. The vast bulk of voters abandon them to back a major party candidate with a chance of winning.
That's already the rub to the mayor's grand plan.
An online petition effort, draftbloomberg.com, had a mere 8,054 signatures as of Friday afternoon. Only 1,514 had been added in the past week. Apparently there still are some things money can't buy.