3/31: Third Term: A Bridge by Any Other Name

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

Now that Ed Koch has had the Queensboro Bridge named after him, maybe the “How Am I Doing?” former mayor might be able to teach the current occupant of City Hall a thing or two about how hard it is to bridge the gap between a second and third term.  When it comes to how he’s doing, Mayor Bloomberg is learning that he isn’t immune from 3rdterm-itis just like Koch and former Governor Mario Cuomo before him.  They both learned the hard way.  Bloomberg is also struggling to make the grade.

What is it about third terms that makes for the growing unpopularity of chief executives?  When first elected, freshly minted officeholders typically ride into office on a wave of change and energy.  Their enthusiastic followers have been promised a new day.  The first termer has accumulated political capital as his followers have invested in the new administration.

If handled wisely, the new leader can successfully strategize about his re-election prospects which usually incorporate a “we need to finish what we started” ring to it.  Re-election is never guaranteed but seems to be a frequent happening even in these change-oriented, turbulent times.

Then, the itch for a third term shows up and it’s off to the races once again.  The problem is in finding a new rationale for running and governing. Now, in the case of Mayor Bloomberg, term limits presented a major obstacle. He eked out a surprisingly close win over an underfunded opponent.

But, according to the latest Marist Poll, his approval rating has sunk, his legacy is on shaky ground, and he is plagued by a series of missteps that threaten to make his remaining years in office difficult. How’s he doing? Not so hot. Will his recent TV ads resurrect his third term?  Stay tuned, but the odds are long.