President Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg talk with participants at the New York City Science and Engineering Fair on March 29, 2011, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s surprise endorsement of President Obama is the latest warm hug that the president has gotten from some famously independent Republican types in the closing days of the 2012 campaign, and it couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune time for him.
Now comes Bloomberg -- close on the heels of former GOP Secretary of State Colin Powell and New Jersey’s notoriously gruff GOP Gov. Chris Christie -- with a bouquet for the Democratic president and a cuff for the Republican standard-bearer.
“In the past,” said Bloomberg, Romney has “taken sensible positions on immigration, illegal guns, abortion rights, and health care. But he has reversed course on all of them.”
Indeed, Bloomberg cited Obama’s work during the hurricane, and the “major steps” taken by the president to combat global warming and its effect on violent weather, in his unexpected endorsement. It came just days after the mayor declared that he would probably not declare a preference.
It’s difficult to say how much Bloomberg’s blessing will matter. The Northeast, of course, is already reliably Democratic. And in many rural areas of the country, the mayor is best known -- and not too fondly, either -- as the nation’s leading elected proponent of gun control, and as the man who’s waged war on Big Gulp sodas, cigarettes, and fattening food.
But for third-party types, environmentalists, Jewish voters in Florida, and undecided independents in the suburbs of states like New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, the Bloomberg brand may shore up Obama’s support. At the very least, the mayor’s endorsement sent a message to business, and to business-minded voters worried about the economy, that at least this one pragmatic billionaire has confidence in Obama and harbors doubts about Romney’s character and capability.
The endorsement said something, as well, about Bloomberg. It is the second big step on the national stage the mayor has taken in the waning days of the 2012 election. Last month, he announced that his new super PAC, the “Independence USA PAC,” will spend up to $15 million on behalf of candidates who have the guts to support gun control, gay rights, education reform, and other tough issues.
“I like to take on those things that other people either are unwilling to take on for political reasons, or unwilling to take on because it’s just too complex, or they just don’t care,” Bloomberg told James Bennet, editor in chief of The Atlantic magazine, in an interview in its latest issue.
“Leadership is about doing what you think is right, and then building a constituency behind it,” Bloomberg said. “It is not doing a poll and following from the back.”