Bloomberg in a Squeaker

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Of all the races to watch tonight, the one everyone expected to be called right as polls closed was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s bid for a third term. After all, the man was so insanely popular amongst the five boroughs that the city actually repealed its two-term limit so he could extend his reign. Plus, Democrats put forth a long-shot and ill-funded candidate in comptroller William Thompson Jr.

Bloomberg, a former Republican who ran this time as an Independent, spent more than $85 million of his personal fortune on the race – dwarfing the amount Thompson raised – the most cash dispensed for a self-financed campaign ever. This brings the total amount he’s spent for three terms to a quarter of a billion dollars – a drop in the bucket for Bloomberg who is estimated to be worth more than $16 billion. (Full, disclosure, I worked for Bloomberg News for four years, though at the time – as it still is – the company was held in a blind trust).

The race was so close in New York that NBC News, after calling the race for Bloomberg, had to retract its call. It wasn’t until more than 96% of the vote was in that the Associated Press called the race for Bloomberg who leads with 50.5% of the vote to Thompson’s 46.2%. That’s nearly $20 million a percentage point.

The second most expensive self-financed campaign? New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine who has spent more than $125 million of his Goldman Sachs fortune on various campaigns (Senate, governor) – more than $22.6 million on his latest reelection bid. Not that it helped him much tonight – he lost his bid for a second term to former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie.

So what does Bloomberg’s squeaker of a reelect mean? There’s a lot of voter unhappiness with incumbents out there, it seems. Especially those who’ve made millions on Wall Street.