The Democrats had a very bad Election Night, but they almost had one bright spot in the Big Apple. Contrary to all expectations, Michael Bloomberg had the fight of his life in attempting to win a third term as mayor of New York City, beating the Democratic challenger David Thompson by only five points instead of the blowout everyone expected. The same President who practically pitched a tent in New Jersey for big loser Jon Corzine couldn’t be bothered to cross the river once for Thompson — and the recriminations have already begun (via JWF):
Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s stunningly narrow re-election in New York was a moral defeat for the billionaire incumbent, and a profound embarrassment for a Democratic establishment – from the White House on down — that abandoned his rival, City Comptroller Bill Thompson, as a hopeless loser.
Bloomberg’s meager five-point win left Democrats pondering what might have been if New York’s Democratic donors hadn’t turned their back on Thompson, if its politicians had worked for him, and most of all if President Barack Obama had offered anything more than the lamest words of praise.
“Maybe one of those Corzine trips could have been better spent in New York. Who knows?” remarked New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, who weighed his own run for mayor, referring to the White House’s devout attention to the New Jersey contest.
“Maybe Anthony Weiner should have manned-up and run against Michael Bloomberg,” shot back a White House official, who attributed the night’s results across the board to anti-incumbent fervor.
The New York race deepened the impression that a White House that prides itself on resisting conventional political analysis had badly misjudged the key contests Tuesday — committing itself most heavily to a New Jersey election that Republican Chris Christie won handily, studiously avoiding a referendum to preserve same-sex marriage that was defeated in Maine and giving up too early in New York City.
Still think that no one at the White House paid much attention to the elections? Still buying that media spin that Obama and his team believe this was all about local issues and had nothing to do with them? The public retort to Weiner’s perfectly understandable criticism should clarify all of that bull puckey. Don’t forget that Weiner is no Blue Dog Democrat, but a full-throated member of the Progressive Caucus — exactly the kind of person Obama needs on Capitol Hill to push his agenda through an increasingly skeptical screen of moderates in the House.
Until now, we’ve given Obama and his team credit for doing elections well, even if they haven’t the first foggy clue on how to govern. This episode shows that even that may have been stretching the point. They had plenty of time to do both New Jersey and New York City, a larger constituency than some states, and to reverse what everyone understood would be Republican momentum. Instead, they guessed very wrong on New Jersey and sent a message to ignore what turned out to be a very viable Democratic candidate — perhaps because they think Bloomberg might be a bit of an independent cover for them down the road.
Democrats in the Big Apple have to wonder to themselves what happened. Obama put Tim Kaine in the DNC driver’s seat and they lost Kaine’s state in a landslide. A Democratic President ignored NYC and the party apparatus followed his lead, and they lost a winnable election as a result. It’s a festival of political incompetence, and Weiner won’t be the last prominent Democrat to question it.