Richard Reeves

The Year of the Boring

NEW YORK -- You know a campaign is in trouble when the word "even" is in a slogan.

Michael Bloomberg, calling himself Mike now, just sent me and millions of others a 12-page, four-color magazine promoting his candidacy for mayor of New York. One of the big red lines across one page reads: "Making New York City Even Safer."

I'm not sure how it came to this. Bloomberg, a very impressive fellow in many ways, decided that he could be "The Next Step" -- another wussy slogan -- after Rudy Giuliani, the Republican prosecutor who became mayor eight years ago and has satisfied most of the people most of the time. Mainly Giuliani, whatever personal problems he has, presided over a 57 percent decrease in violent crime and picked up the garbage more efficiently than most of his predecessors.

Seeing that, Bloomberg thought he could be a hell of a mayor, too. Maybe he could be. He created and runs a very efficient company that supplies electronic mountains of timely financial news and analysis to more than 157,000 clients willing to pay him $1,500 a month and up. The idea that made him super-rich, he told me, was that buyers of stocks and bonds and other financial instruments would pay most anything for the same information previously available only to sellers. He was right. He has a net worth of more than $4 billion now, and the headline on his brochures declares: "This Self-Made Man From a Working-Class Family Plans to Take New York City the Next Step."

Probably not, even though he will spend dozens of millions of dollars running as a Republican in a Democratic city. His fundamental political problem is New York City history: Republicans get elected here only when people are angry at Democrats. Giuliani won in 1993 because people were fed up with crime and David Dinkins -- and associated the two. Now, Bloomberg's literature may be his own epitaph, saying: "Look around. People feel good about their city again!"

In fact, Bloomberg is not really a Republican, at least to many Republicans, who consider him a pro-choice, pro-gun-control Democratic liberal. He changed parties for this race, figuring it was easier to buy a Republican nomination than a Democratic one. And he should be able to win the Republican primary in September against Herman Badillo, a former congressman who held most every office in the city as a Democrat before switching parties himself.

If he defeats Badillo, Bloomberg will face one of four Democrats in November. They are all old faces, all boring in their own way: City Council President Peter Vallone, City Controller Alan Hevesi, Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, and Mark Green, whose title is public advocate, which is the city's second-highest office even though the holder's power sometimes seems limited to getting his name in the papers.

A boring field? Yes. Green, the onetime No. 2 to Ralph Nader in various crusades, may be the most boring of all, although that may just be because his name has been in the papers so often over the years as he has run for most every office in town, including the U.S. Senate back in 1986. Like Bloomberg, Green is very smart, very intense and very repetitious.

But mark the Green. Like California's Gray -- Gov. Gray Davis -- he just keeps running and running, and one day he will look back and no one will be there. Or, he will be the last man standing.

For some reason, the time has come for the time-servers, the rise of the boring. I mean, look at George W. Bush and Al Gore. Post-Clinton, boring is in again.

That's too bad for Mike Bloomberg, who is running, I suspect, just because he is bored after making more money than even computers can count.

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

More like Richard Reeves