By Hadiya Hewitt
Former longtime Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg announced four days ago that he was considering running for president in 2016. Disliked by conservatives for his views on gun control, global warming, and abortion, but criticized by liberals for his stop-and-frisk policies and close ties to Wall Street, Bloomberg is likely most popular among New York’s moneyed elite, several of whom, including billionaire hedge fund investor Bill Ackman, have implored the former mayor to consider a run for president. A significant portion of his support from Wall Street is derived from policies he pursued as mayor and his status as a fellow financier and executive. In 2005, Bloomberg and former Governor George Pataki successfully wooed Goldman Sachs to stay in New York with $150 million in new city and state tax credits. Bloomberg himself is the CEO, founder, and majority stakeholder of Bloomberg LP, a news and data company with revenues of approximately $9 billion. An analyst to the former mayor suggested to the Wall Street Journal that the former mayor “has been upset by what he sees as extremist rhetoric from Republicans in the race, as well as a leftward turn from Mrs. Clinton.”
If Bloomberg were to run, he would likely garner significant support from fellow Wall Street executives, whose power comes not from numerical strength (they are literally the 1%), but their ability to finance a potential campaign. He could also potentially pick up moderate and “big-business” conservatives, who would like his Wall Street background and tough policies on crime. However, a Bloomberg campaign would have to contend with three challenges: (1) Bloomberg’s relative anonymity, (2) anger from liberals and/or minorities over stop-and-frisk and his ties to Wall Street, and )3) opposition from conservatives, who reviled Bloomberg’s soda ban and possibly his “New York Values,” à la Ted Cruz.
Regarding Bloomberg’s anonymity, unless one pays significant attention to financial data and/or Bloomberg News, lives and works on Wall Street, or is a New Yorker, the former mayor is probably a relative unknown. A recent poll by Morning Consult showed Bloomberg getting 13% support from voters, compared to 36% for Hilary Clinton and 37% for Donald Trump. Importantly, 43% of voters had never heard of him or had no opinion of him. To mount a successful run, Bloomberg must mobilize voters outside of the Northeast, an unlikely proposition, considering his entry into the race would be late and would collide with increasingly intractable voting preferences for already-running candidates.
Bloomberg’s policies as mayor also alienated many New Yorkers, especially people of color and the poor. As mayor, he is most well known for his use of “stop-and-frisk” policing, a tactic which he has repeatedly defended, despite criticism that the stops made by the NYPD were overwhelmingly of black and brown youths and may have not contributed to the decline in crime experienced by the city. Bloomberg’s changes to homelessness relief programs are also blamed for the rise in the homelessness population within the city. According to a report by the Coalition for the Homeless, he eliminated priority use of federal housing programs for homeless children and families; combined by general increases in the cost of living and the expansion of for-profit shelter units, homelessness in New York City increased by 7% in 2013-2014.
Moreover, his extensive ties to Wall Street will be unpopular, especially considering the popular support self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders is receiving and the leftward shift in business and economic policies his candidacy is causing within the Democratic party. In addition to alienating liberals, Bloomberg’s reviled bans on soda and trans fats, and calorie count mandate angered conservatives, who saw the bans as the worst excesses of the “nanny state.” He is also staunchly pro-choice, a strong supporter of gun control, and supports gay marriage, all elements of those dreaded “New York Values,” that Sen. Cruz decried during the debate. Even though Cruz’s wife works for Goldman Sachs (FOX Business really missed this one), Bloomberg is sure to fail any conservative litmus test.
Overall, Bloomberg’s best bet is to hope that a nuclear apocalypse wipes out everything except Wall Street. His pragmatism and Wall Street background made him some allies during his tenure as mayor, and his apolitical approach to policymaking may win him some support from moderates in both parties. However, his à la carte policy positions make him painfully out-of-step with either party; considering the degree of political polarization that characterizes current politics and policymaking, Bloomberg would probably not win a significant portion of the vote if he were to declare his candidacy.
*I could be wrong, however. Donald Trump is leading in polls, so anything is possible.
Hadiya Hewitt is a second-year in the College from Maryland