In 1993 and 1996 Ronald Lauder, heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics fortune, used $4 million of his own money to back charter referendums to install term limits on the office of the mayor. He was the city’s loudest, and most effective, advocate for a maximum of eight years of executive control. And now, in the face of the spectacular financial crisis facing the city and the nation, he’s altered his position when it comes to one man and one man only: Michael Bloomberg. The mogul told the New York Post that he’s been hearing about Bloomberg’s intent to run again. “To me, Mayor Bloomberg’s brilliance in the financial sector, particularly Wall Street, would be invaluable,” Lauder said. He’s now in favor of a temporary reprieve on term limits, which would be restored in 2013.
This caused Post columnist David Seifman to declare that “Bloomberg is a near sure-shot for re-election in 2009.” And even more notably, it spurred the tabloid’s editorial-page editors to craft a piece urging the mayor to stay in power. “Run, Mike, Run!” they wrote, purposefully echoing exactly the same sentiment, word for word, as an editorial in rival Daily News’ issue last Monday. To be sure, the backing of Ronald Lauder is a great symbolic boost for Bloomberg. But what will really help him, if he wants to fight term limits and a new slate of challengers, are the dueling tabloids.
Bloomberg’s closest advisers, Ed Skyler, Patricia Harris, and Kevin Sheekey, are reportedly against a third term, and his City Hall staff is surely exhausted after nearly eight years of frenetic work pace. And polls show that voters are uneasy with the idea of suspending term limits. Still, Bloomberg is famous for waiting to see what the tea leaves say before making any political decisions. And in New York, there aren’t any leaves that are easier to read than the Post and the Daily News.