In Race for White House, Wooing Bloomberg

By Barbaro, Michael | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, May 2, 2012 | Go to article overview

In Race for White House, Wooing Bloomberg


Barbaro, Michael, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


They court him over coffee and drop by when they are in town. They dangle invitations for golf and enlist friends to put in a good word.

In an election year when partisanship has burned white hot and the economy has sputtered, two presidential candidates who agree on very little, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, have reached a rare consensus: They are both determined to score the endorsement of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, whose name is all but synonymous with Wall Street clout and nonpartisan politics.

Now, their pursuit of the billionaire mayor is headed into overdrive, with both campaigns making the kind of conspicuous ring-kissing gestures that are reserved for their most sought-after political allies, even though the candidates publicly disagree with the mayor on a range of issues.

On Tuesday, Romney showed up at the mayor's philanthropic foundation in Manhattan for a secret breakfast meeting. Over coffee and juice, Romney made clear that he was there to pick the mayoral brain: "Tell me what's on your mind," he told Bloomberg, according to aides briefed on the 30-minute discussion, which touched on immigration, gun control and education policy.

In its own public display of affection, the White House invited Bloomberg for a round of golf with two members of the Obama administration: He played with Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter at a private club in suburban Maryland on Friday and with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta at a military base in Northern Virginia on Saturday, according to people informed of the outings.

The aggressive wooing of Bloomberg, an independent who did not take sides in the last presidential race, highlights the outsize role that Wall Street, as both a symbol and purveyor of campaign contributions, is likely to play in the 2012 election.

For all of his achievements, Bloomberg is, first and foremost, a business mogul, whose deep knowledge of and close relationships within the world of high finance could carry significant weight at a time when many in industry feel under siege.

"If you want to have friends in the financial sector and you want to shape public opinion in the business capital of the world, then the guy you turn to, the imprimatur you want, is that of Michael R. Bloomberg," said Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime New York political operative who is close to the mayor.

During their meeting, Bloomberg and Romney discussed Wall Street's frustrations with Obama, who has chided bankers for their practices and called for tighter regulation of their industry, according to a person with knowledge of the conversation, who like many interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of upsetting the high-powered leaders.

Bloomberg, who has lent his reputation for common-sense government and his prowess for fundraising to dozens of candidates from both parties over the past decade, feared that an endorsement in the 2008 race might have negative repercussions for the city he oversees.

But as his mayoral term winds down, he has told advisers that he is willing to back a candidate this time around, touching off an intense competition for his support in the general election. …

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