On Thursday afternoon, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed Barack Obama for president in what may be a calculated move to position himself for a presidential run in 2016. Bloomberg, who at age 70 has a net worth of $25 billion, made the endorsement via his website. He said that although Mitt Romney signed into law cap-and-trade legislation as governor of Massachusetts, Obama will lead on climate change — a topic of conversation amid the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. The mayor also wrote,
"[T]he president has achieved some important victories on issues that will help define our future. His Race to the Top education program — much of which was opposed by the teachers’ unions, a traditional Democratic Party constituency — has helped drive badly needed reform across the country, giving local districts leverage to strengthen accountability in the classroom and expand charter schools. His health-care law — for all its flaws — will provide insurance coverage to people who need it most and save lives."
For all intents and purposes, Bloomberg has been a veritable political chameleon for the last dozen years or so. Before he successfully ran for mayor of New York in 2001, he switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican. In 2004, he endorsed George W. Bush. Three years later, he switched again and became an independent. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he didn't endorse any candidate. Now, Bloomberg is endorsing Obama for reelection.
What made Bloomberg go from endorsing George W. Bush to Barack Obama in eight short years?
Perhaps political expediency.
As an ambitious independent politician with a nationally recognizable name, the political landscape of the country in the next few years could provide a wealth of possibility for Bloomberg. As a billionaire and the founder of a media empire that serves the business community, he has plenty of private sector cred — the kind Romney has been touting on the campaign trail for the last five years.
But a key difference between them is that you'll never see Bloomberg under fire for his record on women's rights, LGBT equality, gun control, or really any other social issue for that matter. That's because the mayor has endeared himself to social liberals by adopting progressive stances on these issues. Without question, the U.S. is becoming more socially liberal, but on economic matters, the country is dominated by entrenched business interests that heavily influence American politics. Or as one might call them in 2016, Bloomberg's base. It's no secret that on the whole, highly educated, wealthy elites, care little about who marries who, whether a nativity scene is gracing the public common in their city in December, or what a woman decides to do with her own body.
Given his socially liberal positions, and extremely favorable attitude toward the private sector, Bloomberg can plausibly be a legitimate presidential contender in 2016 by casting himself as a moderate politician who can work with both sides of the aisle to reach bipartisan solutions.
One last note: Bloomberg is one of those guys who spouts the canard that big banks weren't at all to blame for the 2008 financial crisis, when big banks were busy bundling, buying, and selling mortgage-derivatives backed by subprime loans.
Notice that at the 28 second mark, Bloomberg says that Congress "pushed Fannie [Mae] and Freddie [Mac] that were imprudent." A lot can be said about this silliness, but for now it will do to point out that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do not make loans. They securitize and purchase them, which is a big difference. It's surprising that Bloomberg — a supposed financial expert — doesn't know this.