Thursday, October 06, 2005
I wrote, somewhat light-heartedly, a couple weeks ago that Michael Bloomberg's unveiling of "African-Americans for Bloomberg" with several "ringers" -- supporters who didn't actually vote in New York City -- was a slight stumble in an otherwise flawless re-election campaign.
Well, I was partly right. I was off by two weeks -- though the issue was indeed racial politics.
Last Friday, the Bloomberg campaign decided to pull out of a weeks-in-the-planning mayoral debate at Harlem landmark, the Apollo Theatre (site of an Al Gore/Bill Bradley barnburner (well, sort of) in 2000). This constitutes a MAJOR stumble.
Given that a recent Marist poll put Republican Bloomberg at 50 percent among blacks aginst Ferdinand ("Freddy") Ferrer, there was very little downside to Bloomberg attending the debate. Yes, he may not be seen as a "real" Republican in the eyes of many, but having that many blacks willing to pull the lever for a candidate with an "R" on the ballot would have been remarkable.
Now, declining the debate was not a great idea, but a case could have been made and he could have gotten out of it in a diplomatic manner. Instead, Bloomberg & Co. have made things worse.
Let us count the ways:
1) Cancelling AND not giving Sharpton, Rep. Charlie Rangel (who represents Harlem) and Co. a heads-up... Is Bloomberg obligated to let Al Sharpton know what he's about to do to avoid racially-charged situations? Well, no. But why operate that way during your entire first term -- such as notifying Sharpton immediately after the most recent Howard Beach racial incident? He acted similarly in the accidental rooftop shooting of black youth in January, 2004.
2) Speculating at yesterday's press conference that supporter Rev. Floyd Flake's criticism Tuesday was a result of his not having received his"bullet points." Ah, treat the pastor of the city's largest black congregation like he's some campaign staff lackey who forgot to follow his stage directions. Good move!
3) At the same press conference, Sharpton jabs Sharpton on his legal residence, "Look, I can't even figure out where Rev. Sharpton votes." (The broader gossip is that Bloomberg's team was responsible for planting the stories questioning Sharpton's legal residence in Wednesday's papers in the first place).
So much for the nearly four years of a symbiotic relationship Bloomberg had with Sharpton. Worse, how wonderful to give the gasping-for-breath Ferrer campaign a lifeline when they needed it most.
Bloomberg has enough money so he can buy so much ads that he will be able to ride out this flap. But any plan he might have had to get record numbers of black voters for a Republican mayoral candidate has officially gone out the window.
As a black supporter of Bloomberg's said, "If the mayoral swing vote were Italians and a debate was scheduled for Bay Ridge (Brooklyn), a cancellation would look like a slap to the whole community. Same thing here. The black vote was up for grabs in this election. This is an unnecessary self-inflicted political mistake."