Is Mayor Bloomberg’s Endorsement a Mixed Blessing?

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Photo: Edward Reed/Office of the Mayor

Mayor Bloomberg is going national, at least for a day. He'll travel to Pennsylvania today to endorse Democrat Joe Sestak in his Senate race against Pat Toomey, then head to Washington to endorse mayor Adrian Fenty in his reelection fight, and then come back home for a city fund-raiser for Mike Castle, the Republican Senate nominee in Delaware. According to Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, these three have met Bloomberg's endorsement criteria: They've worked on issues important to New York, or they've "shown bipartisan leadership in working across party lines."

Bi-partisanship is a key component of the Bloomberg aura. Up until a couple of weeks ago, an endorsement for your candidacy by Mayor Bloomberg would have meant burnishing your credentials as a moderate, a pragmatist; someone who, like Bloomberg, is not a partisan but a serious thinker and doer. In this political climate, in which voters are wishing for a pox on both party's houses, that's a good image to have. But two weeks ago, Mayor Bloomberg courageously championed the cause of the ground zero mosque as unequivocally and passionately as one could, and in doing so, became a symbolic leader of the mosque's defenders.

With nearly two-thirds of the country opposing the mosque, that's not exactly a helpful attribute. Sure, for Bloomberg, it's fine — he's not running for mayor again — although if he thought he was too liberal to be elected president before, his mosque advocacy will not make him any more palatable to folks between the coasts. But how will it affect the candidates he endorses? As one of the most visible and arguably the most enthusiastic proponents of the mosque, does his seal of approval, at least in the heat of the mosque debate, come with a taint? "I have to believe that the issue of the mosque is not going to be a defining issue for voters in November anywhere, given all the issues facing the country and individual voters," Wolfson told Politico. "I just don't see it." Defining? Probably not. But it's obviously a national issue now. And as a political matter, at least, Bloomberg is on the "wrong" side.

Mike Bloomberg to back Joe Sestak [Politico]