New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg granted a rare interview to the Times' Michael Barbaro where he challenged the rigid rightists of the Tea Party, and the Times made it the lead story on Sunday: "Bloomberg Vows To Help Bolster Political Center - Says Tea Party Is A Fad - Backs G.O.P. Moderates and the Democratic Senate Leader."
In an election year when anger and mistrust have upended races across the country, toppling moderates and elevating white-hot partisans, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is trying to pull politics back to the middle, injecting himself into marquee contests and helping candidates fend off the Tea Party.
New York's billionaire mayor, whose flurry of activity is stirring a new round of speculation about his presidential ambitions, is supporting Republicans, Democrats and independents who he says are not bound by rigid ideology and are capable of compromise, qualities he says he fears have become alarmingly rare in American politics.
Next month, Mr. Bloomberg will travel to California to campaign for Meg Whitman, the eBay entrepreneur and Republican running for governor on a platform of corporate-style accountability and fiscal prudence. He visited Rhode Island on Thursday to champion Lincoln D. Chafee, a Republican turned independent who is locked in a three-way battle for the governor's office.
And, in perhaps the mayor's most direct confrontation with a Tea Party candidacy, he will host a fund-raiser at his Manhattan town house for Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader facing an unexpectedly forceful challenge from Sharron E. Angle, a political neophyte backed by Sarah Palin.
In his first extensive interview with a newspaper in several years, Mr. Bloomberg outlined his plans, which will include raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for candidates and represent his greatest involvement in a national election since he entered public life a decade ago.
After Bloomberg unconvincingly argued the Tea Party movement was a fad similar to support for eccentric billionaire Ross Perot in 1992, Bloomberg said he wanted more bipartisanship as that displayed by Orrin Hatch and the late Ted Kennedy.
He said that he would not have voted for either of them ("one because he's too liberal for me, one because he's too conservative for me"), but added, "These two guys who went into the Senate together and were the closest of personal friends for 40 years, they were everything that democracy says a senator should be."
But for all the Times' talk of bipartisanship, almost all of the politicians Bloomberg sympathizes with or who are seeking his favor are Democrats, including liberal Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate Joe Sestak:
But those seeking Mr. Bloomberg's endorsement say that voters are not simply angry; they want solutions to problems, and that the mayor represents a government that, by all accounts, works well. Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland, a Democrat who won the mayor's backing for re-election this year, said voters were "sick of partisanship and they want us to deliver."
"Mayor Bloomberg speaks to that desire in a powerful way," he said.
Mr. Sestak said he hoped the support of a mayor who values an apolitical style would prompt Pennsylvania voters to question the Tea Party's brand of elbows-out conservatism. "It's a way of saying, 'Let's think this through,' " he said, adding, "There is too much extremism right now."
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