By this point all of the political junkies out there have heard the rumors indicating that former New York Mayor and ultimate Nanny State advocate Michael Bloomberg is thinking of a third party run for the White House. Last night Ed took the potential race apart, seeming to indicate that it might not only be worth Bloomberg’s time, but that he could actually carry some electoral votes. Anything’s possible, I suppose, but the realities of such a race would be essentially unpredictable at this point as far as I can tell. Ed correctly notes some potential similarities between Bloomberg and Ross Perot, but pairing 2016 against 1992 just rings a bit shallow for me.
Some other authors I’ve seen have been comparing such a race to the primary season in 1968, and there are definitely some similarities. But at the same time, if Bloomberg does get in (more on that below) and can carry some states, particularly New York, the race may look very, very different. As the guys at Powerline point out, we might find ourselves looking at 1824 all over again.
But I wonder whether we might have four major candidates in the event of a Trump-Sanders or Trump-Clinton matchup—Bloomberg plus an “independent” Republican candidate (I’d guess it might be Romney)? Then the election we’d most resemble was 1824, when there were four major candidates running. That election was settled in the House of Representatives in favor of John Quincy Adams, even though Andrew Jackson won the most popular votes. One could imagine this happening again, with Trump, Clinton, or Bloomberg getting the most votes, but a Republican dominated House picking the “independent” Republican candidate. (Let’s hope to God it isn’t Jeb Bush.) One can imagine today’s Jacksonian candidate (Mr. T) being just as outraged as Jackson was at such an outcome. If you think things were bitter after the messy outcome of the 2000 election between Bush and Gore, just wait.
The first thing we need to ask ourselves is what Bloomberg’s motivation is in all of this beyond just a blind desire for power. Why would he get in the race? We’re being told that he’s so upset at the possibility of a Trump vs Sanders election that he may feel compelled to swoop in and save us all. But if that’s the premise, then I suppose we’re expected to believe that he would quietly and happily sit home if the race wound up somehow being Hillary vs Rubio. Sorry, but I’m not buying it. Bloomberg may be sensing an opportunity to be the consummate establishment candidate if it comes down to a battle of the outsiders, though. He likely has advisers whispering in his ear telling him that much of the country is terrified of seeing their choices narrowed down to either the Vermont Socialist or the Manhattan business mogul. It’s probably a tempting concept since frightened establishment fans can easily paint that pairing like a battle between Godzilla and Mothra: no matter who wins, your city’s probably going to be trashed.
But should prospective Bloomberg supporters feel any more sanguine about a battle where Hillary Clinton is the candidate? Do they really want to put all of their chips in on a race where their candidate might have visitors with an arrest warrant showing up any day? Again, color me skeptical.
In the end, here’s how I think we need to read the tea leaves for anything associated with Bloomberg. Look at his bank account. If a fool and his money are soon parted, Michael is on the opposite end of the spectrum from a fool. If the man is attached to anything it’s money and if he’s seriously thinking about cashing in to the tune of a billion dollars of his own cash for a race, it’s not to be an issue candidate or to “shake things up.” If Bloomberg does this it’s because he thinks he can actually win. The remaining question for me is, what path does he see to victory when so many others have come before him and failed miserably in similar quests? For that answer maybe we need to go back to the Powerline analysis. The two parties are so deeply embedded in most states that no independent candidate, regardless of the cash he has available to burn on an air war, is going to carry them. But he might be able to carry enough that neither Trump or Sanders could get to 271. (For one hypothetical example, he’d really only have to carry New York and Texas along with one of the larger swing states to shut both of them down.) And then? If he really pictures himself as the establishment candidate in that scenario perhaps he thinks the House of Representatives who are largely establishment fans would cut some deals and put him in the White House.
It sounds unlikely in the extreme to me, and I’d put the highest odds on this being a story based on a couple of idle conversations after a few too many cocktails. Bloomberg can get a good laugh out of it, enjoy a few headlines and then let the idea die. I’m going to go ahead and label this story vaporware for the time being. But if I’m wrong and he does start filing papers next month, then the guy has a plan. He’s a terrible, nanny state dictator wannabe, but he’s not stupid.