While most of the country is focused on Obama and Clinton, McCain and Romney, and big issues of race and gender, war and the economy, the sliver of island called Manhattan, just off the coast of America (where it rightly belongs, some would say) is busy getting frustrated with the non-candidacy candidacy of a man who many on the mainland would probably have difficulty identifying. There’s no doubt that if New York’s billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, decides to run for president, it could seriously affect the race, stealing votes from one side or the other. The reality, though, is that Bloomberg has repeatedly denied that he will run, and the only people seriously chewing over the possibility that he still might can be found in a mile radius around Gracie Mansion.
Within that radius, of course, are the home bases of most of our national media. And the volume and persistence of the Bloomberg rumor (a Bloomer?) is testament to the ability of one of his deputy mayors, Kevin Sheekey, to grab the collective ear of New York’s media elite and get them to echo back a singular message: the mayor is mulling the idea. There are many reasons why Bloomberg might want this message out there. He might actually be serious and just waiting to see who his competition would be in the general election, or he simply likes the power this rumor buys him in Albany and Washington. But this rumor has been the source of many articles and much talk over the past two years.
The boiling point for me was a front-page piece in The New York Times last Friday with this imploring headline: “Calls Grow for Bloomberg to Make Up His Mind.” It speculates that “before actually entering the contest, Mr. Bloomberg may have already risked losing something: people’s patience.”
But who are these “people,” I wondered. Turns out we’re talking about “editorial pages from The Wall Street Journal to The New York Post, The Village Voice and The New Yorker.” Ah, right.
The piece does eventually make clear that there is “little indication that ordinary voters around the country have given much thought to a Bloomberg candidacy,” and it even offers hard numbers. Of 550 voters in New York State, where people actually know who he is, only 27 percent thought the mayor should run and a measly 12 percent imagined he could win. These people, who could not care less about a Bloomberg run, apparently aren’t among those “people” who are frustrated by the mayor’s indecision.
Before we can understand how the press came to be irritated by this waiting game, it’s worth understanding how it hyped the idea of a Bloomberg candidacy to begin with.
First there’s the New York Sun, which has never hidden its support for a Bloomberg run, whose praise has leaked from the editorial page onto the front page in story after story—though recently even the Sun appears to have grown frustrated with Mayor Mike’s coyness and seems to have turned to Obama, of all candidates.
But the Sun has always been more of an advocate than an objective reporter of Bloomberg’s ambitions. And yet, it’s not alone. Since early 2006, The New York Times has run more than two-dozen stories based on little more than speculation about the hypothetical candidacy. All have featured the character of Kevin Sheekey and some variation of this phrase from a May 2006 piece:
Kevin Sheekey, the deputy mayor for government affairs and Mr. Bloomberg’s lead political architect, continues to work behind the scenes, chatting up lobbyists and other operatives to promote the idea of Mr. Bloomberg running as an independent.