Thursday, 5 November 2009

Bloomberg's Tight Squeeze

Michael Bloomberg had a squeaker of a race this week to win his third term as mayor of NYC. It was a race I was keeping an eye on for a while as it had the makings of an interesting battle but fizzled mid way through.

I was interested because U.S. cities are feeling a lot of pain. There are billion dollar budget cuts such as in California. In the industrial heartland Flint's 2007 program of 'controlled demolition', an attempt to shrink their inhabited space by up to 40%, is being looked at as a model for other centres. Detroit has a $300m deficit and some, though not newly elected Mayor Bing, say that bankruptcy is likely the only way out.

New York City's situation is not as dire but the city's unemployment rate is just shy of 10% - a 12 year high. Billions had to be cut from the city's budget and the projected deficit for 2010 - 11 is in the $5b range. In these perilous times would voters stick with the billionaire businessman or go for the lower-key city comptroller ?

Right from the start Bloomberg seemed to be setting himself up for a fiasco. A recap of the early fun:

In the 90's New Yorkers voted twice to bring in a two-term limit for mayors. Bloomberg, though, worked with council allies to repeal the law and threw his hat in the race.
An unpopular move, one that
caused anger from the get-go.

Bloomberg's spending was bordering on insane. By early July Bloomberg's camp had spent $37 million - four times what it spent at the same point in his inaugural race. The massive ad blitz was found by one university study to make voters feel annoyed rather than informed. (In the end Bloomberg spent just under $100m U.S.)

It seemed like it could be a close match but then rival William Thompson started to fade. By August Bloomberg had a 52% to 36% lead. A poll taken the night before the election showed Bloomberg still with a 12% margin. On election day, November 3, the voters bit back a little bit. The final count: Bloomberg 50.6%, Thompson 46%.

In the New York Times' "day after" coverage even Blooomberg knew some of his supporters abandoned him in the late stages of the campaign, if not right in the voting booth. When asked if anger was a factor in the surprisingly slim margin of victory he said well, you know, I’m — maybe — I’m sure there was some.

Also Check Out this interactive graphic from The NY Times plotting his 2005 and 2009 wins block by block !

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