It isn't enough that he can outspend any potential rival by 9 or 10 to 1. It isn't enough, apparently, that he has shelled out plenty of money to hire the best political consultants and hatchet men in the business.
Mike Bloomberg's campaign is using a dubious technique to smear opponents or possible opponents. The method is called push polling -- and it may not be illegal but it is certainly immoral.
Push polling involves attempting to influence the views of people by pretending to conduct a public-opinion poll when the real purpose is to affect their views on candidates or issues.
Thus, the Times reports, Bloomberg commissioned a poll last month that spread nasty information about Rep. Anthony Weiner, one of the mayor's possible opponents in this year's mayoral race. Apparently, it didn't matter that Weiner has said he isn't sure about running. The high-powered Bloomberg campaign apparatus still had to sock it to him.
People who received phone calls in the push-button survey were at first asked fairly innocent-sounding questions about whether they were registered to vote and whether they planned to vote. But then came the heavy artillery. Would they change their minds about Weiner if they knew certain negative things about him, like how many votes he missed in Congress, how he had problems keeping his staff and whether he accepted campaign dollars from foreign fashion models?
A campagn adviser to Weiner called push-polling "one of the most discredited and dishonorable forms of negative campaigning."
Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for Bloomberg, wouldn't admit that the campaign had commissioned the negative phone polls. But Wolfson, characeristically, had a venomous comment. "Unfortunately for Congressman Weiner, the fact that he takes money from lobbyists and special interests, misses votes and has not passed any significant legislation isn't a push poll -- it's his record."
Why a multi-billionaire who seems assured of winning would stoop to push polling only a political psychologist could answer -- if there is such a person. But, even if there was one available, Bloomberg would probably buy him off.