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Commentary: Bloomberg's America is different from Ross Perot's

  • Story Highlights
  • Bloomberg would be 19th candidate to declare for the presidency
  • The New York mayor's potential run is being compared to Ross Perot's
  • Once a member of the Republican party, the billionaire is now an independent
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By Roland S. Martin
CNN contributor
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Editor's note: Roland S. Martin is a CNN contributor and a talk-show host for WVON-AM in Chicago.

(CNN) -- Political junkies are excited and electrified over a potential independent presidential bid by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and for good reason.

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CNN contributor Roland Martin says there is no national clamor for a Bloomberg candidacy, unlike in 1992 when Ross Perot garnered attention.

If the billionaire jumps into the race, he would be the 19th candidate to declare for the presidency. He is worth $5 billion -- some say as much as $20 billion -- and the thought of a serious third-party bid hasn't been a reality since diminutive billionaire Ross Perot garnered 19 percent in the 1992 election, helping Democratic challenger Bill Clinton beat President George H.W. Bush to win the presidency.

It is assumed that Bloomberg would have to drop $500 million of his own money to compete for the White House, and considering he spent $140 million on two successful campaigns for mayor of New York City, he clearly has shown that he's not afraid to toss a few dollars around to get what he wants.

His run is being compared to Perot's bid in 1992, and on the surface, that make sense. Dissatisfaction with the Republican and Democratic choices led to America pining for a new voice 15 years ago. We wanted someone who eschewed partisan politics and who saw himself as bidding to save America from ruin.

While declaring that he doesn't want the job, Bloomberg has worked feverishly to burnish his national appeal by giving substantive policy speeches about non-New York City issues. He's traveled the nation to speak with numerous political leaders and revamped his Web site. He's also ditched the Republican Party label, which he took on before his inaugural mayoral run in 2001 after years of being a Democrat.

On paper, he has the bona fides to run for president, but other than being a billionaire and calling for change in America, there is a significant difference between a potential Bloomberg candidacy and that of Perot's: The nation clearly isn't the same today as it was then.

Go back to February 20, 1992, when Perot appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live" and opined about a number of critical issues. The nation was in a mess. We were buried in a recession, Bush had gone back on his no tax pledge, and his Republican supporters were angry and out for blood.

In steps a tough-talking Texan who brought a no-nonsense approach to politics. His voice was fresh -- albeit a bit squeaky -- he didn't bite his tongue on the tough issues, and then, of course, singer/actress Cher phoned in and expressed her support for him running for the White House.

So Perot made it clear: Get me on 50 ballots and I'm your man.

That led to the creation of the Reform Party, a group of grassroots activists tired of the established political parties. The nation was begging for a change and Perot was their man.

Fast forward to today. There is no national clamor for a Bloomberg candidacy. He is a sitting politician who is known more for being a great manager than someone who will speak truth to power and generate attention with soaring oratory. In fact, he is downright boring in his speeches. America is just as dissatisfied today as it was in 1992, but this time, it's about the Iraq war. A lot of folks thought the nation spoke by giving Democrats the Congress in November, but that still hasn't changed the war. So how will Bloomberg fix the most critical issue facing the country?

Who is Bloomberg's constituency? Is it Republicans who are desperate for a standard-bearer in the mold of Ronald Reagan? Bloomberg doesn't appeal to the GOP base -- he's liberal, from New York and is Jewish. (Be honest, if he was a hard-core conservative and a Baptist, they would be falling over him.)

He might appeal to disenchanted Democrats like Perot did, but the left is energized by the last election, and the last thing they want to do is back a candidate who may keep them out of the White House after eight years of George W. Bush.

The New York Times has reported that Bloomberg's camp has studied the Perot race, but that's technical stuff. There is no passion, excitement or a significant rallying point to jump behind a Bloomberg run. And with the possibility of Rudy Giuliani winning the GOP nomination and Sen. Hillary Clinton grabbing the Democrats' top spot, the idea of choosing between three New Yorkers is too much to handle.

At the end of the day, Michael Bloomberg is simply a rich guy looking to spend what it takes to move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And that simply won't cut it with the American people.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the writer. This is part of an occasional series of commentaries on CNN.com that offers a broad range of perspectives, thoughts and points of view. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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