The report that Mayor Bloomberg recently had "a long private lunch at the White House" with President Obama has some speculating about Mr. Obama turning to Mr. Bloomberg as Treasury secretary or as president of the World Bank. But if Mr. Obama really wants to get Mr. Bloomberg involved, the way to do it would be to go all the way and put Mr. Bloomberg on the 2012 ticket as his running mate.
The Treasury job gets mentioned because of Mr. Bloomberg's background in the financial industry. Before Mr. Bloomberg started the Bloomberg L.P. financial data and news business, he worked at Salomon Brothers. And the current Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, said publicly as recently as January that he doesn't expect to serve a second term. But the Times report of the Obama-Bloomberg meeting says Mr. Bloomberg "stressed that he had little interest in joining the Obama cabinet."
The World Bank job isn't in the Obama cabinet, so it doesn't conflict with that statement. It's also open; according to Bloomberg News, which has been covering the search closely, Robert Zoellick's term expires June 30, and the World Bank is accepting nominations for his successor until March 23. Mr. Bloomberg reportedly once listed it, along with the mayoralty and the presidency, as one of the few jobs he'd be interested in. This time around, though, his spokesman has said he's not interested.
That leaves the vice presidency. Here are four reasons that Bloomberg for vice president would be good for President Obama:
•Money. Mr. Bloomberg spent $108 million of his own money winning a third term as mayor of New York City. One would expect him to spend two or three times that, at least, in support of the Obama-Bloomberg ticket. Naming Mr. Bloomberg as vice president would be the easiest possible way for Mr. Obama to assure his campaign has the funding advantage going into the election. If Republicans complain, President Obama can point out that Mitt Romney spent at least $44 million of his fortune trying to get elected president in 2008, and fault the Republican-appointed Supreme Court Justices for rewriting campaign finance laws to gut spending limits.
•Business credibility. Mitt Romney's campaign is built on the message that as a businessman who has been successful in the private sector, he has experience that President Obama lacks. Michael Bloomberg has been even more successful as a businessman in the private sector than Mitt Romney has, and his presence on the ticket would help neutralize that Romney theme. President Obama's current vice president, Joseph Biden, who, like Mr. Bloomberg, was born in 1942, began serving in the U.S. Senate in 1973 and hasn't had a day of private-sector experience since.
•Post-Partisanship. The thing that got Barack Obama on America's radar screens to begin with in a positive way was his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention about how "there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. …The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them …." What better way to reinforce the post-partisan image that helped Mr. Obama win in 2008 and to appeal to the growing numbers of independent swing voters than with a running mate, in Mr. Bloomberg, who is a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent?
•The Jewish Vote and Electoral Math. Some recent polls have shown Mr. Obama's support weakening among Jewish voters, who supported him overwhelmingly in 2008 and who traditionally are a strong Democratic constituency. This may be because of a perceived distance between Mr. Obama and the Israeli government, or it may because of concern about Mr. Obama's handling of the economy and of health care (there are lots of Jewish doctors). Whatever the reason, naming a Jewish running mate would help Mr. Obama in several important states with large Jewish populations whose electoral votes could be in play in November's election. Mr. Bloomberg would help in Florida, a key swing state that Mr. Romney could gain traction in by selecting Senator Marco Rubio as his running mate. Mr. Bloomberg could help in Massachusetts, which is Mr. Bloomberg's home state and which could potentially be in play as Mr. Romney's home state. Mr. Bloomberg could help in New Jersey, which neighbors New York and is in the New York media market and which could be in play if Mr. Romney picks Garden State Governor Chris Christie as his running mate.
That's what President Obama would get from choosing Bloomberg. The question that remains is what Bloomberg would get out of it. He'd give up some privacy. Used to being the top executive at his company and in the city government, he'd almost certainly chafe at playing understudy to Mr. Obama. But Mr. Bloomberg does have some ideological affinity with the Obama administration. Mr. Bloomberg's housing commissioner, Shaun Donovan, became Mr. Obama's secretary of housing and urban development, and Mr. Bloomberg's commissioner of health and mental hygiene, Thomas Frieden, is director of Obama's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And Mr. Bloomberg is a deeply patriotic and grateful American, an Eagle Scout who remembers the Scout Oath: "On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country." If the job is offered and Mr. Bloomberg perceives it as a "duty to country" issue, he'll accept.