Billionaire Mayor Bloomberg pushes middle class image in campaign
Mayor Michael Bloomberg taking the subway. AP photo.
As Mayor Michael Bloomberg ramps up his re-election campaign, a slew of TV ads and his new direct mail brochures reinforce a central theme: He understands the average New Yorker.
It may be a tough sell for a billionaire mayor who once told a radio interviewer that we love the rich people and has fought a reputation for arrogance.
He's not in touch with the people, said Andrew Wells, 58, a retired federal worker from Marine Park, Brooklyn. Look at taxes, traffic fines. The man lost touch a long time ago.But even as some New Yorkers say Bloomberg, who is seeking a third term, can't relate to them, it may not matter, as the mayor still enjoys a commanding position in the race.
With a near-60 percent approval rating and a reported willingness to spend up to $100 million -he has already spent $18.5 million - some wonder whether an I feel your pain tone is necessary.
The whole campaign at this point is overkill, said Bruce Berg, chairman of the political science department at Fordham University.
In an ad titled Middle Class Squeeze, the mayor, wearing a leather jacket, is seen talking to people on the street while in voiceover he discusses the economy, saying, it's hard to make ends meet . . . I understand these challenges.
If there is a weakness in his attractiveness to voters, it is in the outer boroughs, where he can be seen as not one of us, said Berg.
The Bloomberg campaign responded that the mayor has made development in the outer boroughs a centerpiece of his economic policy and points to lending programs and job training for small businesses as measures that will help middle class New Yorkers.
The images in the ads are not spin, they say.
The mayor visits different neighborhoods every week, said Sylvia Alvarez, a campaign spokeswoman. Looking at some of the endorsements he's gotten, people say the reason they want to re-elect him is because he shares their concerns.
A recent Marist poll showed Bloomberg with a 59 percent approval rating (61 percent for each borough except the Bronx, where he got 49 percent) though on the question of whether he cares about people like you his score dropped to 50 percent.
Some policies may have hurt Bloomberg with middle-income constituents and those beyond Manhattan.
Property taxes have gone up 18 percent since he became mayor and he is trying to
raise the sales tax to help balance the budget while ruling out proposals to raise the income tax on top earners, which his likely opponent, Democrat Bill Thompson, supports.
The property tax, as well as a failed attempt last year to charge drivers coming into Manhattan, would hit outer borough residents particularly hard: Manhattan has the lowest percentage of both owner-occupied houses and workers who commute by car.
He doesn't relate to the people in our community, said Wayne Danglade, 53, of Crown Heights.