This week may be a turning point in the 2008 presidential race, and the moment belongs to Mike Bloomberg.
The transition from New York City mayor to potential presidential candidate has been fascinating to watch. After his landslide re-election in 2005, Bloomberg has consistently tackled national causes (including global warming and illegal guns) and pursued a higher profile. In early May, like most politicians about to retire from public life, he launched a brand-new website promoting his issues and accomplishments. The site, mikebloomberg.com, is better than the sites of most actual candidates.
After debuting his ambitious environmental plan for the city, PLANYC 2030, he landed on the cover of Time magazine with Arnold Schwarzenegger: The New Action Heroes. Though he repeatedly denied any interest in running for president, signs pointed to yes, as the magic eight ball says.
After the last 24 hours, you no longer need the magic eight ball.
First came a visit to Google headquarters where during an hour long interview, he sounded more like a candidate than ever before. This was followed by more speeches during a "campaign-style swing" through California.
Then came a completely unexpected announcement that signals something big is happening. Bloomberg has officially changed his party affiliation from Republican to Independent, setting the stage for a possible independent run.
"When you go to Washington these days, you can feel a sense of fear in the air, the fear to do anything or say anything that might affect the polls or give the other side the advantage or offend a special interest group."
There is an opening for an independent candidate like no other time in recent history. People want government to work and they are less and less particular about what party is behind the success. While the extremes of both parties demand complete obedience to increasingly good vs. evil positions, most people just want compromise, civility, and common sense solutions. For examples of the former, see the Democratic candidates who recently dropped out of a Fox News debate on orders of the left or the threats from various Republican religious leaders who demand 100% fidelity on 1 or 2 issues and seem to want a puppet rather than a president.
Interestingly, at the same time that people are becoming less attached to parties, so are politicians. Joe Lieberman won as an independent and Republican Chuck Hagel has talked openly about the possibility. And Schwarzenegger built his political success on largely ignoring his party label and building coalitions on a case-by-case basis. Bloomberg has a similar record and the finances to run a campaign like no one else, without spending a minute on fund raising.
As the press coverage of Bloomberg grows, you may come across some sloppy comparisons of the mayor and Ross Perot - both billionaires, successful businessmen, and would-be independent candidates for president. Don't be fooled. Bloomberg is smarter, a better businessman, and his company is truly innovative. Plus, he has actually run two winning campaigns and proven he can govern effectively.
This campaign gets better every day.