Michael Bloomberg, the Niche Candidate

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In an open letter to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, commentator Mike Murphy writes: "The problem is, you are a niche candidate. If you were ice cream, you wouldn't be chocolate or vanilla. You're French vanilla. Liberal on social issues, conservative on fiscal matters — it's a very, very attractive thing to be ... for about 17 percent of the voters."


Will he or won't he? Political junkies had been engaging in fierce arguments about whether New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will enter the presidential race as an independent candidate. Well, before Bloomberg makes his decision, political consultant and Republican strategist Mike Murphy has some advice he'd like to give the mayor.

Mr. MIKE MURPHY (Political Consultant and Republican Strategist): Hey there, Mike Bloomberg. If you are listening - and deep down, I know you are, I mean, come on, it's NPR and you're not exactly a country music kind of Republican - I got a proposition for you. I hear talk on the political street that you're about to spend $1 billion of your vast personal fortune running for president as an independent. Well, as a political consultant, I'd say this. Please, send me a check for 1$ million.

No, I don't want a job. I'm just here to help. If you send me that million bucks, Mike, I can save you a billion. Because the fact is, you just can't win. Look, I know it's tempting to run. You've been a great mayor and a total wizard in business. You must look at all these other candidates scuttling around and think, I could beat those clowns. I mean, people hate the two parties. And I've got real solutions. Well, maybe. But politics is a game of arithmetic. So, let's start adding up the votes.

In a hypothetical race for president, I'll give you New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. I'll give you 85 percent of the Jewish vote. I'll give you every upper middle-class, pro-choice Republican voter with a family income of $250,000 a year or more. I'll give you every SUV driver, every Volvo driver, every CEO of the Fortune 500, every one of their board members, their families. I'll give you Arnold, but you're not going to get Maria. And I'll even throw in everybody listening right now to NPR.

Congratulations, Mike, it's Election Day, and you just got maybe 17 percent of the vote. You see, Mike, the problem is it's a big country, and there are just not enough of your kind of voters out there. You're a niche candidate. And if you were an ice cream, Mike, you wouldn't be chocolate or vanilla, you're French vanilla. Liberal in social issues, conservative on fiscal matters. Sure, they love it in New York City. In fact, the people who live within walking distance of (unintelligible) love your kind of moderate politics. But there's a lot more country in between.

So, don't feel bad. I'm sure you'd do much better than other independent candidates, like John Anderson in 1980, or Ross Perot, or George Wallace, but you're still going to lose. And the odds are you'll pull more votes from Democrats than from Republicans because, well, Mike, we both know the fact is being the liberal Republican mayor of New York City actually means you're a conservative Democrat. And worse yet, you'd be up against the iron rule of D.C. politics, which is this. While the Democrats might hate the Republicans, and the Republicans may hate the Democrats, everybody hates an independent troublemaker who shows up with $1 billion and tries to steal their franchise.

So, save your billion. Instead, use your piles of cash to speak up loudly on the issues during this campaign. Impress a lot of people this time, then switch over to the Democrats and run for real next time. Now, that plan could work. And one more thing, please send me my check by overnight mail, if you can. I've had a very rough day in the market.

NORRIS: Commentator Mike Murphy is a political consultant and Republican strategist.

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