First off, on the likelihood of Bloomberg getting a third term: He’s pretty damn popular in New York, and if he manages to get rid of the term limits, I think he would get reelected easily. But eliminating the term limits so he can run in the first place? That would probably be trickier. As the Times article that Dylan links to points out, a referendum wouldn’t do it but the City Council might. If the Speaker wants to keep her job, then she might try to push it through – but she might eyeing Bloomberg’s job, in which case she’ll want to preserve the term limits, because there’s no way in hell she’s going to want to have to go up against him next Fall.
This is a really interesting point. Christine Quinn is being booted from her job as Council speaker at the end of 2009 because of the same term limits that are cramping Bloomberg’s style. A hypothetical deal in which they remove each other’s restrictions on running for reelection sounds pretty plausible, especially given the difficulty of Quinn winning the mayoralty even without Bloomberg in the race. I could get behind that.
I guess Bloomberg’s second option would be to pull a Putin and invent some number two job that allows him to wield all sorts of power while someone else is actually mayor. This may seem rather Third World, but American cities – especially big ones – tend to have pretty weak and illiberal democratic traditions. So why not? New Yorkers get to keep their limits so that David Dinkins 2.0 can govern ineffectively for only so long and so that Rudy 2.0 won’t bite the head off every baby in the city, while keeping Bloomberg in a position of power. Sounds like a deal to me.
The question would be what post to do this with. He could run for the Council, but he’s not a Democrat and I’m sure the other Democrats on the Council would love nothing more than to deny him the Speakership. The Comptroller and Public Advocate are other options; the Comptroller doesn’t have the statutory authority that Bloomberg would want, but the advocate position, what with its loosely defined powers and Council pseudo-membership, seems like an ideal post for him so long as he has a patsy in the mayoralty. Richard Parsons, a city turns its lonely eyes to you.
Bloomberg obviously knows far better than me which of these two options (a deal with Quinn or a run for Public Advocate) would be more plausible, but it seems that while the former is a safer way to preserve his power, the latter might be more easily accomplished. Regardless, I just had another idea. As Ned notes, David Paterson has endorsed a third Bloomberg term. Part of this is no doubt due to Bloomberg’s hugely successful tenure, but I’m guessing it also has a lot to do with the fact that Bloomberg could very well beat Paterson in a hypothetical 2010 gubernatorial race. It’s thus in Paterson’s interest to keep Bloomberg busy in the city. Here’s what could happen (note that this is all completely irresponsible speculation):
STEP ONE: Christine Quinn considers a deal with Bloomberg, but turns it down in favor of her own mayoral bid.
STEP TWO: David Paterson threatens to endorse and pull all his political weight behind one of Quinn’s opponents (say, William Thompson) unless she makes the deal with Bloomberg.
STEP THREE: Quinn reconsiders and pushes through term limit repeal, thus preventing her from losing a humiliating and brutal primary and securing Paterson’s reelection come 2010.
Man…I wish New Hampshire politics were half as interesting/complicated as this.