June 21, 2007
Giuliani May See a Rival in Successor
By MICHAEL POWELL
Seven weeks after the 2001 terror attacks, Rudolph W. Giuliani gave a
last-minute electoral nod to a billionaire media mogul running for mayor.
Michael R. Bloomberg, his beneficiary, prevailed, Mr. Giuliani was a
kingmaker, and their smiles lasted about 18 minutes. Aides to both men
have sniped for years, and Mr. Bloomberg has carefully distanced
himself from Mr. Giuliani, suggesting of late that the former mayor
left him with a huge budget deficit.
Now Mr. Bloomberg has stuck a gilded toe in the presidential waters,
creating a most unwelcome sensation for every candidate: the
uncertainty that comes with knowing a newcomer might shower a
half-billion dollars on his own campaign.
But, as Mr. Bloomberg is his former supporter and would also campaign
as a bold steward of America's largest and safest major city, the
sting goes perhaps deepest for Mr. Giuliani. And, frozen smiles aside,
the former mayor's camp is not much amused.
"Bloomberg's biggest accomplishments are not to screw up Giuliani's
legacy," said Fred Siegel, a Cooper Union professor who served on Mr.
Giuliani's transition committee in 1993 and later wrote "The Prince of
the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life." "His
accomplishments are modest."
Mr. Giuliani himself did not go there. "I like Mike a lot," he said.
"I have nothing bad to say about Mike, except I am disappointed that
he left the Republican Party."
Those close to Mr. Bloomberg were as carefully noncommittal as the
mayor himself, who once again played the coquette yesterday, saying he
was not a candidate.
"Mike is not a wiseguy, and he doesn't carry a rapier," said David
Garth, the veteran media adviser who works with Mr. Bloomberg and
advised Mr. Giuliani in his successful 1993 campaign. "He doesn't go
for the cut."
Mr. Garth paused and added, "My suggestion would be not to mistake
this for any lack of toughness."
No one doubts that a Bloomberg candidacy would be a long shot. Still,
sitting on his piles of money his net worth is estimated at $5
billion, give or take a couple of billion Mr. Bloomberg could create
many headaches, say consultants of both parties. He grew up
middle-class and built a globe-spanning business, which potentially
enamors him to the same people wooed by Mitt Romney, a child of privilege.
He has a "so why should I care" style he has acknowledged smoking
marijuana, and enjoying it and is not afraid to trot out a dry, even
caustic wit, not unlike Senator John McCain. And his social liberalism
his advocacy of gun control, abortion rights and gay rights could
prove attractive to Democratic voters considering Hillary Rodham
Clinton and Barack Obama.
"He could take votes from all sides, and he's got lots of moola,"
noted former Mayor Edward I. Koch. "I can't tell you how demeaning it
is to raise money and how discouraging it is, if you're a candidate,
to see someone come in with his money."
The presidential candidates found it wise yesterday to smile a lot at
the mention of Mr. Bloomberg's name, crack jokes ("I wouldn't be
surprised by anybody leaving the Republican Party today," Mrs. Clinton
said) and praise his stewardship of the city.
"He's done a very efficient job as mayor of New York City," Senator
McCain said yesterday. "And obviously, he would probably have the
resource of spending his own money."
Mrs. Clinton's senior fund-raising staff discussed the news yesterday.
It did not escape their notice that several of Mrs. Clinton's most
prominent money people notably the venture capitalists Steven
Rattner and Alan Patricof helped re-elect Mr. Bloomberg as mayor.
But no one claimed to detect anyone heading for the doors just yet.
"The men and women in that room were very focused and don't
intimidate," said Robert Zimmerman, a New York publicist who was at
the campaign fund-raising meeting yesterday. "They're successful
because they don't flinch."
Perhaps, although Mr. Bloomberg, who was a lifelong Democrat until he
jumped political horses in preparation for his mayoral run, could
compete for Mrs. Clinton's base in states like New York and
California. The mayor's campaigning of late for congestion pricing and
"green" city buildings could appeal to independent and traditional
Democratic voters, and has even drawn praise from former Vice
President Al Gore.
Then there are those like Mr. Koch, a Democrat, who noted that his
endorsements tended to come with a short half-life. "My position is
that I'm being very careful," he said. "My endorsement of Hillary, who
I like, is for her in the Democratic primary. My options are open in
the presidential campaign."
Mainly, one heard the notion repeated privately by several campaigns
that no one sees much percentage in saying anything that might annoy
a billionaire who is trying to make up his mind.
"A billionaire is like a mastodon: He gets everyone's attention," said
Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime Democratic Party consultant. "The thing
that people hate most in politics is a wild card. Well, he's a really
That said, Mr. Bloomberg poses perhaps the most intriguing challenge
for his predecessor. Their messages of fiscal discipline,
crime-fighting and social liberalism are as similar as their personal
styles the phlegmatic self-described liberal technocrat versus the
temple-throbbing lawman are dissimilar.
Mr. Bloomberg danced carefully around his predecessor from the start,
sprinkling him with praise even presiding over Mr. Giuliani's
marriage to Judith Nathan even as he sank some of the former mayor's
favorite projects, not least a last-minute deal to build new stadiums
for the Yankees and the Mets. (He later approved a less expensive
stadium project.) Of late, Mr. Bloomberg has raised the temperature,
suggesting that Mr. Giuliani left him with a pile of money problems.
"I'm determined," Mr. Bloomberg said recently, "that when I leave the
city, my successor, the first year in office, won't have enormous
deficits to deal with."
For their part, Mr. Giuliani's aides have been assiduous in
emphasizing that Mayor Bloomberg has done a good job at continuing
the legacy of Mr. Giuliani. It was a point that Mr. Giuliani
underlined yesterday in Des Moines, Iowa, in terms suggesting a man
praising an acolyte.
"I think when you work as hard as I did at being mayor, you want those
things preserved, and he has done a lot of that, and he has done a
good job," Mr. Giuliani said.
In fact, while Giuliani loyalists suggest Mr. Bloomberg's wooing of
Mr. Giuliani six years ago was mere political expediency, the former
mayor has not hesitated to end his own political romances when
necessary. He disposed of a schools chancellor, Rudy Crew, with whom
he was once quite close, and his aides sometimes leaked damaging
gossip about those who ran afoul of the administration. By midday
yesterday, a few Giuliani aides wondered if those close to Mr.
Bloomberg might be tempted to let out a few Giuliani-era secrets.
As one former adviser to Mr. Giuliani noted, without any suggestion of
a whine: "I don't know that gratitude is an emotion that has much sway
Michael Cooper, Patrick Healy and Marc Santora contributed reporting.