Who exactly does Mayor-for-life Mike Bloomberg want to be our next Senator? First we're told that his influential friends convinced a bank-loving conservative Democrat from Tennessee named Harold Ford to run. Now, suddenly, he wants million-year-old hack publisher Mort Zuckerman?

Wayne Barrett at The Village Voice noticed that the Times story on Mort's supposed Senate dreams was bylined by media reporter Tim Arango and City Hall reporter Michael Barbaro. Those two have shared a byline only once before: when they broke the news that Mike Bloomberg was going to campaign for a then-forbidden third term as mayor, and that he'd enlisted the support of Daily News publisher Zuckerman, New York Post and Wall Street Journal publisher Rupert Murdoch, and Times publisher Pinch Sulzberger. That was a great big scoop that revealed precisely the method Bloomberg would employ to buy his way into a third term: aligning the city's papers behind him and convincing every reporter in the city to operate as if his third term was an inevitability.

The rushed Post editorial encouraging Zuckerman's entry into the increasingly ridiculous Senate race makes a bit more sense when you remember that it was the Zuckerman-Murdoch-Bloomberg alliance that got Mike reelected.

But aren't these the same guys forcing a ridiculous Harold Ford run down our throats? Have they decided that the Ford campaign is too ridiculous to be salvaged? (Ford will reportedly come to decision regarding his "political intentions" at the end of this week, or possibly at the end of February, according to a brief Daily News story today—he has one more "listening event" left on his schedule.) It's hard to see Murdoch and our city's Republican mayor having any influence over a Democratic primary. But Mort has been tacking hard right lately, and these guys might just think that in this climate, the only thing standing in the way of a Republican pickup is a candidate with money and name recognition. Ford might make a run as an independent, but he wouldn't end up on the GOP ticket. Mort, on the other hand, might even attract some of that Tea Party excitement these billionaires have heard about lately!

Crucially, the Barbaro story that launched the beautiful Ford campaign named Democratic donors Steven Rattner and Maureen White as the big names behind Ford. Mayor Mike was only said to be "open to the possibility of supporting a challenger of Mr. Ford's stature." Which, you know, the couple from the Hillside Honda commercial have turned out to be "of Mr. Ford's stature." (Sulzberger's apparent absence from the Zuckerman discussions is probably because he's still sticking with the candidate owned by his friends the Rattners, which is why his paper keeps running stories like "Boy, Harold Ford's wife is so pretty and down-to-earth.")

The Ford flirtation and this apparent Zuckerman campaign are the best proof yet that Mike has completely lost it. Is aide Keven Sheekey still telling him that he could be president? (Memo to Mike: you are an unmarried socially liberal billionaire Jew who lives in New York.) He barely bought his reelection in a boring campaign against a complete nonentity. His inflated poll numbers are at their lowest point ever. He's exhausted his political capital. Now he and his dumb rich friends are mistaking their other dumb rich friends for people of stature. Mort Zuckerman is a lightweight. At least ambition-troll Harold Ford can work a hotel lounge.