An alliance of centrist Republicans and Democrats is seeking to organize a grass-roots movement targeting the middle of American politics, a political sphere depopulated by the midterm elections and a vital tool for any potential third-party presidential candidate.
The group, called "No Labels," has drawn support from supporters and advisers of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the country's most powerful independent politician, raising questions about his national political ambitions. Mr. Bloomberg has been invited to attend the group's Dec. 13 launch.
Political analysts see a potential Bloomberg bid if Washington's divided government turns into gridlock, if the economy doesn't improve, and if former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and President Obama are the likely nominees. Mr. Bloomberg said he wouldn't consider running in 2012. "I have the best job in the world," he said.
No Labels (www.nolabels.org) is led by Democratic fund-raiser Nancy Jacobson and Republican strategist Mark McKinnon, who were introduced to each other by Kevin Sheekey, Mr. Bloomberg's political adviser.
The group has raised more than $1 million to seed its effort against what it calls "hyper-partisanship." Backers include co-chairman of Loews Corp. Andrew Tisch, Panera Bread founder Ron Shaich and ex-Facebook executive Dave Morin. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as well as U.S. senators Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Michigan's Debbie Stabenow, will attend the New York launch.
The group's goal is to start a centrist equivalent to the tea-party movement on the right and MoveOn on the left. It sees an opportunity based on the defeat of liberal Republicans in recent years and the heavy losses taken by conservative Democrats in 2010.
No Labels founders say they have purposely not asked Bloomberg to donate to the party because they do not want the party to be too closely associated with him.
But that's just jive.
His fingerprints and moneyprints are all over this party.
The party founders - one Dem, one Repub - were introduced to each other by a Bloomberg aide.
Bloomberg knows he needs a ground operation of some kind to run an independent presidential bid. This is his attempt to create that operation while making it look like a "grassroots effort."
And of course getting political hacks like Lieberman and Villaraigosa on board provides some cover and allows him to make the party look like it is some organic sprout-up rather than some very well-organized, very well-funded create by a billionaire brat with money to burn and an ego the size of the Northeast that needs aggrandizing.
Conditions weren't right for Bloomberg to run in '08. He needed a Hillary/Rudy race to run. But he got McCain/Obama and it was hard to argue that the "Change We Can Believe In" guy and the Republican most liked by independents were going to be hyperpartisan.
But 2012 may be different. Nobody believes the "Change We Can Believe In" jive anymore and whoever wants to win the Republican party primaries has to run a really right-wing campaign.
And of course Bloomberg has $300 million to drop on the race.
That said, can a Jew from New York (even a secularized one) who has a record of taking away people's guns, cars and transfats win a national campaign for president?