Starting Gate: Something For Nothing

How easy is it to get nearly unlimited press attention for doing nothing? If you happen to be a billionaire mayor of New York City, it appears to be a snap. Every few weeks or so, the media breathlessly reports on the possibility that Mike Bloomberg may decide to spend a chunk of his vast fortune on an independent bid for the White House.

Forget the fact that the mayor himself has repeatedly played the reluctant warrior and has in fact said he wants to spend that money on philanthropic causes instead of television ads, he – or those surrounding him – keep the dream alive. Forget that we're locked in the most exciting and unpredictable campaign in memory. Forget the possibility that we could already have two New Yorkers as the nominees of the two parties, both of whom occupy the center of the political spectrum that Bloomberg would supposedly enter the race for. And forget the fact that over a dozen very serious candidates have spent a year honestly subjecting themselves to the political process -- meeting voters, refining policy positions and exposing themselves to media scrutiny. Money, it's said, trumps all.

Whether it's covers of national magazines (remember the one where he and Arnold Schwarzenegger were touted as some sort of "dream" team?), breathless reports of what someone told someone else that Bloomberg had said to yet another person or the endless talk of strategy, Bloomberg has nearly managed to become a candidate without lifting so much as a finger.

The New York Post reports today that Bloomberg aides have "reached out" to political consultants inquiring about their availability for a presidential campaign. It has been suggested that such an effort would rest primarily on television ads financed by his fortune. With the mayor's track record of earning loads of free media by doing nothing, it doesn't appear he would need to spend much at all.

Every couple of weeks, we're subjected to stories about some Bloomberg's machination – such as his trip to New Hampshire (relatively meaningless in a general election), his speech to Google or his highly public meeting with Barack Obama. And every time, the mayor says he's not running. Actually, he more often says he has no "plans" to run. But his close aides do and haven't been at all shy about sharing them. Maybe we should take the mayor at his word, at least until he changes it.

Tancredo's Big Day: The Republican field is expected to lose one of its number today when he makes a "major announcement" about his campaign. While never making much of a dent in the polls, Tancredo has left his mark on this campaign with a laser-like focus on illegal immigration. The Colorado Congressman ran two graphic and somewhat disturbing ads in Iowa warning about the dangers arising from lax boarders, including the threat of terrorism and gang activity.

No word yet on whether Tancredo might endorse and no indication whether such an endorsement would be of help to a specific candidate. But, he does have the support of about 8 percent of likely Iowa caucus goers, and those folks will be looking for someone to support. Questions about Huckabee's record on the immigration issue in Arkansas may prevent him from picking many of those votes up but Romney could benefit simply because he is the candidate who's been picking on Huckabee on the issue. In a tight and unpredictable race, every little bit helps.

About That Whole Muslim Thing: Former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey has apologized to Obama for bringing up the Illinois Senator's Islamic heritage last week when Kerrey was in the midst of endorsing Hillary Clinton. " I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim," Kerrey said. "There's a billion people on the planet that are Muslims, and I think that experience is a big deal."

Kerrey's comments were questioned for injecting the issue into the campaign, one which has been twisted in whispering campaigns in states like Iowa, with some e-mails suggesting that Obama himself is a Muslim. Kerrey apologized for the remarks in a letter to Obama and told the AP that his comments were misinterpreted. "What I found myself getting into in Iowa - and it was my own fault - it was the wrong moment to do it and it was insulting," Kerrey said. "I meant no disrespect at all." The Obama campaign said the senator had accepted the apology.

Around The Track

  • Iowa may be overshadowing the process, but the Clinton campaign isn't ignoring New Hampshire, which they hope would serve as a firewall should the candidate not win the caucuses. Clinton and Bill Clinton will stump there over the next several days and surrogates, ads and bus tours are part of the plan.
  • Rudy Giuliani is heading back to New York City after spending the night in a St. Louis hospital with flu-like symptoms. He had no campaign events scheduled for today.
  • Meanwhile, a new Quinnipiac University poll shows Giuliani's Florida firewall weakening. While he still leads the field with 28 percent of the vote, Huckabee has surged to 21 percent with Romney right there at 20 percent.
  • Huckabee implored Iowans to show that candidates can't simply "buy" the Iowa caucuses and said he's not worried about attacks from Romney. "Maybe I should be worried, but I have a lot more confidence in you than I do in people's negative attack ads, in part because I think most of you have sense enough to understand that if a person doesn't have his own platform and all he can do is attack somebody else, he's probably not the guy you want running the country."
  • The Columbia State notes that Romney's religion may be an issue for him in South Carolina, pointing out that some 63 percent of GOP primary voters in the state are expected to be "born again" or evangelical Christians.
  • Some Iowans were disappointed with the cancellation of TV talk-show host Rachael Ray's appearances in Iowa this week.