Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Bloomberg's "Flawless" Campaign

A further thought on Michael Goodwin's assertion that the mayor ran a flawless campaign. In challenging an incumbent you must go on the offensive to demonstrate that change is necessary. Often this will take the form of some down and dirty personal attack that, if it is to be effective, should be linked to one policy or another.

In yesterday's Times, Patrick Healy reported on the decision of the Ferrer campaign not to go negative. This decision had absolutely nothing to do with the statesmanlike demeanor of the candidate (or his less than scrupulous consigliere Roberto Ramirez). The decision instead was based on the assumption that if the Ferrer camp went negative it would unleash a barrage of counterattack ads that would bury the challenger.

Cleary if the mayor is going to spend close to $100 million on seashells and balloons ads he could have just as easily spent $125 million by adding a negative onslaught of his own. This is what used to be known as nuclear deterrence; where your response arsenal is so powerful that your enemy simply doesn't dare attack you.

Every analysis of the mayor's flawlessness must come back to the money. This does not mean that Freddy Ferrer was a good candidate. He lacked the personality and perspective needed to make the case. Let's not forget, however, that it was the extremely unlikable James Dolan who successfully pushed up the mayor's negatives and drove down his approval ratings with his devastatingly effective ads on the stadium.

That issue should have been the starting point of an attack on the mayor's sanctimonious claim that his wealth put him out of the reach of the special interests. From there the focus should have shifted to the cronyism at the BTM and the mayor's support of eminent domain, policies that could easily lead to gentrification that would exacerbate the crisis of affordability that Ferrer talked about but was unable to find any traction for (precisely because he either didn't know how to link it or, as was the case of the BTM, he refused to offend the same special interests that promoted the sweetheart deal).