If Mayor Michael Bloomberg casts his hat into the 2008 presidential race, he has the blessing of a predecessor at New York’s City Hall, Ed Koch.
Speaking to the Forward by telephone this morning, the former New York City mayor said he would welcome a run by Bloomberg.
“Oh yes, I think he’d be a fine president,” Koch said.
Along with their stints in the mayor’s office and Jewish backgrounds, Koch and Bloomberg share a maverick streak. Bloomberg announced yesterday that he was leaving the Republican party. A longtime Democrat, Bloomberg switched parties shortly before his run for mayor. For his part, Koch, a Democrat who served as mayor from 1978 to 1989, broke with his party to back President Bush’s reelection in 2004.
This campaign season, however, Koch has expressed enthusiasm for the candidacy of New York’s Senator Hillary Clinton. In his weekly New York Press column, Koch has written that he hopes to be “able to take a role in the campaign to elect her as President of the United States.”
Koch, who delivers commentaries on Bloomberg Radio, told the Forward that he is standing firm in his support for Clinton in the Democratic primaries. He did not, however, close the door on backing a Bloomberg candidacy.
“My support for Hillary is in the Democratic primary,” Koch said. “If Bloomberg were to come in, I would consider it at that time as to which of the two I’ll be supporting. I don’t have to make any determination now, because he is not yet a candidate.”
(Asked about Bloomberg’s announcement, Clinton reportedly said, “I’m not surprised that anyone would want to leave the Republican Party.”)
Bloomberg has coyly played down his presidential prospects for the press. “A short, Jewish billionaire from New York? C’mon,” he has said.
Koch said that he doubted Bloomberg’s Jewishness would hold him back should he decide to make a run for the Oval Office. Koch said he believes that antisemitism would play a “very minimal” role.
“We have reached the point where blacks can win — I believe that everybody thinks that Colin Powell would have won if he had run for president — and Obama is certainly a contender. So I don’t think that one’s ethnicity or religion anymore is a determinant in the election.”
Bloomberg, Koch said, has never sought to aggressively portray himself as a Jewish politician.
“He does it on the merits, it has nothing to do with being Jewish, and he certainly doesn’t seek to portray himself, nor should he, nor did I. He’s proud of being Jewish, but that’s a private matter,” Koch said. “He is an American who is of Jewish ethnicity and religion, as am I.”