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Cracks in Billionaire Bloomberg -- Bill de Blasio's Campaign Is a Full-Frontal Assault on the Mayor's Legacy

For years Bloomberg's political power and cash helped prevent a sustained attack on his style. This time he's powerless.

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Formally endorsing Quinn in the primary – once seen as an assured outcome – would actually help de Blasio in the Democratic primary, where voters have mixed feelings about the mayor (and seem to be penalizing Quinn for her relationship with him). Saying nasty things about de Blasio, as the mayor did in the interview published this weekend, also seems to be helping him. And with both men soon vacating their current offices, there isn’t much Bloomberg can do to him governmentally (e.g., cut his budget) at this point.

As for money, the mayor could theoretically empty his wallet and fund a PAC’s ads against de Blasio. But he hasn’t so far, and for good reason: Doing so might very well boomerang on him in much the same way his verbal attack has. Without the political leverage to quiet him or the opportunity to financially drown him, he’s been left to deploy his skilled aide Howard Wolfson to bash de Blasio and defend his legacy  in various forums. Wolfson’s good at this, but compare it to the arsenal of tools the mayor previously had to protect his image, and it barely makes a dent. Even with the city’s three biggest papers endorsing Quinn, de Blasio’s only seemed to get stronger.

The result is that the Democrat has launched a sustained, vociferous attack on the Bloomberg legacy – on everything from his economic philosophy to his stop-and-frisk policy – and it has stuck. Over the course of the last 12 years, it’s one of the only lengthy, publicly audible excoriations of his performance and legacy that the mayor could not quell – whether through intimidation, punishment or reward.

Seen in this context, it makes sense that Michael Bloomberg would be upset at Bill de Blasio. His political and policy legacies are facing a firing squad and — for the first time ever — he may be powerless to stop it.

Blake Zeff is the politics editor of Salon. Email him at and follow him on Twitter at  @blakezeff.

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