Bloomberg Criticizes Potential Opponents

Despite his denials of plans to run for president as an independent, Michael Bloomberg sounded like he was campaigning against his potential opponents in a press conference yesterday:

With unusually dismissive language, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg offered tart assessments of his potential presidential rivals at a news conference on Wednesday, suggesting they are offering meaningless bromides rather than serious answers to the problems confronting the country.

On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, Mr. Bloomberg delivered his critique in language that was both sharp and coy, and likely to draw more attention as he prepares to head to Oklahoma for a conference that is widely viewed as a possible launching pad for a third-party presidential bid.

At one point, Mr. Bloomberg appeared to take aim at his predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, saying that candidates need to explain how they will fight terrorism.

“‘I’m going to be tougher than the next guy’ is not an answer to what you would do,” the mayor said at the news conference, which was officially held to announce a drop in teenage smoking rates but veered toward the Oklahoma trip in response to a question by a reporter.

On health care, Mr. Bloomberg took a veiled swipe at former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who signed a measure requiring residents to obtain insurance or face penalties but has since distanced himself from some parts of the legislation.

“One guy had a plan that we don’t know if it will work, but then he walks away from his own plan,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

And on trade, the mayor seemed to be taking a dig at Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, saying, “Some people are in favor of free trade and then walk away from it.”

There has been speculation that Bloomberg would be less likely to run should Obama win the Democratic nomination since they met last month, especially considering Obama’s support among independents. In reading the report I noted that Obama was not specifically criticized. Bloomberg did say, “Don’t say, ‘O.K., Bloomberg’s criticizing A, B or C’ on either side. It’s all of them, and I think that’s the frustration you see among a lot of independently minded people from both sides and the middle of the aisle.” The fact remains that he always seems to leave Obama out of his criticism of other candidates.

Bloomberg’s statements further fueled speculation about a possible presidential run, especially coming so soon before the bipartisan meeting planned for Monday. Those involved have repeatedly said that the meeting is not planned to promote a third party bid but this is the result which would be the most significant. Christie Todd Whitman, in a recent interview on NPR, stressed that her concern was reducing partisan gridlock, but reducing conflict between the two parties is not very likely during a presidential election year. I do hope that this helps further her efforts to increase the influence of moderates in the Republican Party, but this also does not appear very likely.

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