Two founding members of Unity08, an effort to field a bipartisan "unity ticket" nominated via the Internet, announced today they're establishing an online petition drive to encourage Bloomberg to enter the race. Former Republican consultant Doug Bailey and Gerald Rafshoon, who served in the Carter administration, praised Bloomberg as a competent, non-ideological leader who could bring people together and solve the country's problems.
"After seven years, this country is ready for a competent leader," Rafshoon said at a press conference in Washington. "It's ready for a non-ideological approach to our problems, and it's ready to stop the partisan bickering that goes on between parties and within parties."
Bailey and Rafshoon said their draft campaign is totally separate from Unity08, which has effectively shut down due to fundraising issues and a dispute with the Federal Election Commission. They also said their new project isn't connected to Bloomberg in any way, though they have told one of the mayor's top aides -- Kevin Sheekey, who's reportedly laying the groundwork for a Bloomberg bid -- what they're up to.
"I think it's fair to say he smiled," Bailey said when asked about Sheekey's response.
While Bailey and Rafshoon spoke at length about Bloomberg's bipartisan, technocratic approach to government, they had little to say about what specific policies voters could expect from a Bloomberg administration, and essentially conceded that the mayor would rely on others for foreign policy expertise.
"One of the things that's most impressive to me about his management in New York is that he brought to the city government and to the departments of the city, the most competent people he could find, regardless of party, regardless of background, regardless of anything other than knowledge of the issue," Rafshoon said. "And the same thing would be true in the foreign policy area or in other areas of the presidency which he wouldn't necessarily need firsthand knowledge of."
Both men were confident that Bloomberg would only run if he believed he could win, and would not be content serving merely as a spoiler who could influence the race, but not prevail in it.
"Michael Bloomberg, if he runs, will be elected president of the United States," Bailey said.
Neither man would discuss the other candidates in the race, nor any possible general election matchups, even if Bloomberg were pitted against John McCain and Barack Obama – two candidates with proven appeal to the independent voters Bloomberg would need to win.
"I think it's a mistake for us, and we've pretty well decided, we're not going to talk about other candidates," Bailey said "The interesting thing for us is the unique quality that Bloomberg has to pull people together."