Where Are National Democrats in Mayor's Race?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama chat at the 9/11 anniversary tribute.

    A Democrat is struggling to unseat the mayor of the nation's largest, and arguably most important, city, but top party leaders are staying mum on the sidelines.

    The Democratic National Committee has said nothing about William Thompson Jr.'s uphill battle to unseat Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the popular billionaire who has spent $64.8 million of his own money on the race, or 16 times what Thompson has spent.

    By this point in the last mayoral campaign in 2005, the DNC had dispatched its then-leader, Howard Dean, to campaign with Bloomberg's Democratic challenger. Other prominent Democrats, including John Kerry and John Edwards, also crossed state lines to help four years ago, when Bloomberg was just as popular, almost as rich and had crossover appeal to Democrats despite his Republican registration.

    And in the 2001 race, DNC head Terry McAuliffe was involved on a number of levels, at first trying to smooth party tensions over a bitter runoff for the nomination, and later rallying for the nominee.

    But the DNC has said nothing about Thompson, the city comptroller.

    The committee's head, Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia, has not come to campaign here. President Barack Obama, who has not been shy about helping congressional and state-level candidates, has stayed out of it. So has Vice President Joe Biden, who has been traveling coast to coast to help Democrats.

    It is hard to say how much the DNC's involvement could influence the race. Campaign finance laws limit the party organization from contributing more than $4,950, so any meaningful help would amount to asking Democrats nationwide to chip in or adding visibility with Democratic star power.

    With less than a month to go before Election Day, Thompson needs all the free exposure he can get.

    The party has not responded to repeated questions from The Associated Press about its role in Thompson's campaign.

    Analysts said a number of factors could explain the absence of national Democratic figures in the mayoral race, including the party's focus on other priorities, such as Obama's health care agenda and gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey.

    Bloomberg — who supports gay marriage, gun control and abortion rights — also isn't high on the list of GOP enemies.

    He was a lifelong Democrat before he became a Republican to avoid a crowded primary in 2001. He is no longer a member of any party but is running again on the Republican and Independent Party lines.

    "Mike Bloomberg isn't viewed here in New York as the typical Republican, so quite frankly it's not surprising he's not viewed in Washington as the typical Republican," said Democratic strategist Evan Stavisky.

    Bloomberg's campaign and administration employ many top Democratic strategists. Just this week, the White House touted Bloomberg's call for health care overhaul as they cited comments from various moderate Republicans and independents.

    The national party's lack of interest in Thompson reinforces the perception that Bloomberg is difficult to beat, even in a town where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a ratio of 5 to 1.

    Thompson also hasn't sought their help.

    Asked recently if he was disappointed by their lack of interest in the race, Thompson looked surprised at the question and said he was under the impression they did not take on mayoral races. He said he had not bothered to call them.

    "They haven't been involved in huge ways in the past," Thompson said. "I don't think they get involved."

    Meanwhile, Bloomberg's team of well-paid strategists is seeking outside help. Can't get Obama's endorsement? How about the next best thing, well-known adviser John Podesta?

    The campaign trotted out Podesta's endorsement Tuesday on the Democrat-heavy Upper West Side, with Podesta noting it was his first time crossing party lines.

    Bloomberg has also summoned other national Democrats here to endorse him, such as Newark Mayor Cory Booker, or to just say nice things, like former Vice President Al Gore, who said last month that Bloomberg is doing "a spectacular job of providing leadership as the mayor of the capital city of the world."