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Why Bloomberg Fantasy Won't Come True

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg can become the next president of the United States.

I know this because the Constitution tells me so: Bloomberg is a "natural born Citizen," has "attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States."

But after that, I think his campaign is in trouble.

We do not know if Bloomberg actually will run for president in 2008 — he has repeatedly said he will not — but the possibility of his doing so has attracted an inordinate amount of attention

I once worked for Bloomberg News, owned by Bloomberg, and had one group off-the-record dinner with him. He was funny, charming, bright and personable. But I think he might need a little bit more than that in order to become president.

Like a reason for people to vote for him. And a way of winning.

Bloomberg's chief selling point would be his competence. He can get things done around the nation, he will tell voters, as he has gotten things done in New York.

Which is also Rudy Giuliani's chief selling point.

And, now that you mention it, Hillary Clinton also stresses competence and experience, as does John McCain, as does Mitt Romney, as do several other candidates.

Nor, outside of New York City, is Bloomberg the household name you might think he is. A Fox News-Opinion Dynamics poll conducted last week showed that 35 percent of registered voters nationwide had never heard of him. Only 23 percent had a favorable view, while 14 percent had an unfavorable view, and 27 percent were unsure.

Those figures aren't awful, but they don't show a nation panting for Bloomberg's entry into an already crowded race.

So how does he win? Money, his supporters say. He's got oodles of money, maybe around $5 billion or so. And he could spend a billion dollars of his own money on a presidential race.

There are two problems with this, however.

First, when voters give you money, they often protect their investment by voting for you. When you finance your own campaign, you don't build that base of support. The second problem is not pleasant to talk about. So let us begin by quoting Bloomberg, who has asked, "How can a 5-foot-7, divorced billionaire Jew running as an independent from New York possibly have a chance?"

The divorce thing is no real barrier, and the height thing I will deal with later. It is the "billionaire Jew" thing that might come into play if he tries to self-finance — as in, "Does that Jew really think he can buy the presidency?"

Don't think that will come up? No? What country are you living in?

I do not suggest anti-Semitism should keep Bloomberg from running for president.

I do suggest that, as with Romney's Mormonism, Barack Obama's race and Hillary Clinton's gender, Bloomberg's religion (in a nation that has never elected a Jewish president) is yet another mountain for him to climb.

But there are other mountains.

Third party candidates don't win. The other parties fight like the devil to keep them off the ballot, and the American people seem reasonably happy with just two parties controlling the presidency.

Everybody uses Ross Perot's 1992 race as an example of the power of third parties. And Perot did get 19 percent of the vote. But he did not get a single electoral vote, and as we all learned in 2000, the Electoral College is the ballgame.

So how does Bloomberg get to 270 electoral votes and victory?

His supporters always begin by saying he will easily win New York. But will he? Against Hillary? Against Rudy? Against both of them?

The same question arises with California. Could Bloomberg really take California away from Hillary? Or Obama? Or even pro-choice Rudy? (Nor could Bloomberg depend on the endorsement of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who likes him. Schwarzenegger told me in an interview on Feb. 22, "Obviously, I will be endorsing a Republican candidate.")

And how well does Bloomberg do in the South and the West, and in Democratic strongholds in the Midwest and Northeast?

I had lunch with a strong Bloomberg supporter last year, and when I asked him how Bloomberg was going to get to 270 electoral votes, the supporter said: "We don't need to get to 270. We just need to keep the others from getting to 270."

Wrong. If that happens, the race would be decided by the House of Representatives, which has a Democratic majority.

For the Bloomberg fantasy to work, not just one, but both parties would have to nominate extremist or fringe candidates, which would force Democratic, Republican and independents voters into the arms of Bloomberg.

But is that what usually happens in American politics? No. Occasionally we get a Barry Goldwater or a George McGovern, but that doesn't happen often, and Bloomberg would need both parties to field unacceptable candidates.

Then there is the philanthropy thing. Bloomberg is already a serious philanthropist. In 2005, he gave away $144 million. He has said he intends to devote his life to philanthropy when he leaves the mayor's office and has purchased a $45 million mansion as his headquarters.

So, unlike the other candidates, he must ask himself: "Do I spend a billion dollars on a quixotic campaign for president, or do I spend that same billion dollars to help cure AIDS, feed the hungry, house the homeless, improve education, fund the arts, etc.?"

If he is as smart and concerned as I think he is, he will put the dough into philanthropy.

Which leaves the height thing. He is wrong about the height thing. Not only has the shortest presidential candidate in the race often won, but Bloomberg is a full three inches taller than James Madison, our shortest president.

So Bloomberg's height is no problem. But just about everything else is.

To find out more about Roger Simon, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2007, CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.



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