Unity08: Splitting Up Over Bloomberg?


By: Wall Street Journal

Ben Casselman reports on the presidential race.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg insists he isn’t running for president, but his supporters aren’t giving up.

Several leaders of Unity08, a group that has been working to build support for a bipartisan campaign for president, are planning to launch a new effort to promote a Bloomberg candidacy, according to people familiar with the situation. The future of Unity08 itself is unclear.

The “draft Bloomberg” effort is expected to inherit much of Unity08’s staff and infrastructure, according to people briefed on the plans. The group will launch signature-gathering efforts across the country to try to get Bloomberg’s name on the ballot, and might also run newspaper ads to build support. Several other pro-Bloomberg efforts already exist and have been active online under names like UniteForMike.com and RunMikeRun.com, but the new group could dwarf those volunteer-run groups in size and resources.

Bloomberg’s political guru, Kevin Sheekey, has met with Unity08 organizers, and the group’s chairman, Doug Bailey, has spoken positively about a Bloomberg run in the past. But Bailey has repeatedly said Unity08 members will choose their candidate through an online nominating convention in June. Bailey said Unity08 plans an announcement early next week, but isn’t dissolving itself and he wouldn’t say whether staffers are leaving for a Bloomberg movement. Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser declined to comment.

Bailey, a former Republican consultant and the co-founder of the political newsletter the Hotline, founded Unity08 in 2006 with former Carter Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan, who also served briefly as Ross Perot’s campaign manager in 1992. (Jordan has since resigned.) The group planned to nominate a bipartisan ticket through its online convention and once hoped to get on the ballot in all 50 states. But although more than 100,000 people signed on through the group’s Web site, ballot access efforts stalled.

UPDATE: It was announced late today that the chairmen of Unity08 are leaving to join a new effort to promote a Bloomberg candidacy. Unity08, meanwhile, is going into “hibernation” due to a lack of funds. Heading up the new effort will be Bailey and Gerald Rafshoon, a former communications director for President Carter. Several other members of the group’s staff are also expected to join the Bloomberg effort.

Unity08 Chief Executive Robert Bingham says operations will stop for the time being, though he said he hopes to revive activities in the future. In its letter to supporters, Unity08 directors also pointed to a moral victory: the success of unity-themed candidates such as Sen. Barack Obama. “In a larger sense, we have accomplished a major portion of what we set out to do,” the directors wrote. “But in the specifics and logistics, we have fallen short.”

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