NYT: Mike Bloomberg commissioned a poll to see how he'd do as an independent against Trump and Hillary

In case you missed it over the weekend. In an election where the two major parties seem ready to belch up Hillary and Trump as their nominees, it’s only fitting that the third-party challenger be deeply unlikable too. Why should conservatives choose among the lesser of two evils when they could choose among three?

Election 2016: The Democrat, the Democrat lite, or the Democrat lite-est? Maybe Bernie Sanders will decide to go fourth-party and give America a real choice.

“The Republican Party has never done anything for the working man like me, even though we’ve voted Republican for years,” said Leo Martin, a 62-year-old machinist from Newport, N.H., who attended Mr. Trump’s Claremont rally. “This election is the first in my life where we can change what it means to be a Republican.”…

Some political leaders, eyeing the Republican split, are sensing opportunity.

Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire media executive and former New York mayor, was intrigued enough by the prospect of Mr. Trump’s becoming the Republican standard-bearer that he commissioned a poll last month testing how he would fare against Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, according to two sources close to Mr. Bloomberg. But he has often very publicly flirted with a run, savored the attention, then announced that he would not pursue the candidacy.

Nothing would capture the zeitgeist of working-class rage and alienation this year like a soft-spoken Wall Street tycoon worth $40 billion jumping into the race to cleanse America of its guns and Big Gulps.

Forget about it, says David Graham at the Atlantic. Mike Bloomberg’s a vainglorious, media-friendly rich guy who relishes the attention he gets from flirting with running for president, but he’ll never pull the trigger — which was exactly what people like me said about Trump the day before he announced last summer. Graham makes a fair point that if Bloomberg’s poll showed him doing well it would have been leaked by now, but let’s not set the bar too high this early. Hillary and Trump were two of the most famous people in America even before they jumped into the race. Bloomberg would spend big bucks introducing himself to the public to raise his profile. Also, I doubt you can get an accurate sense right now of how likely voters from each party would be to back an independent, before any primary votes have been cast. Ask a Rubio or Christie fan today if they’d back Cruz or Trump over Hillary and I bet most would say yes; ask them two months from now, after Cruz or Trump has battered their guy into submission with nasty attacks, and maybe they’ll think otherwise. It’s hard to see Bloomberg picking up disgruntled Democrats who prefer far-left Bernie Sanders to Hillary but it’s easy to see him picking up votes from moderate Republicans who loath Trump (and Cruz?) as too reactionary. If he ran, it’d be a pure “destroy Trump” mission, I think. The question is this: Is that enough reason for him to do it?

Bloomberg’s said no in the past, that there’s no point undertaking an effort this enormous if you have no real chance of winning. But who knows? He’s 73 now and isn’t going to hold another office. Even a billion-dollar self-funded campaign would barely dent his personal fortune. Someone’s going to run as a centrist third-party alternative if we end up with Trump and Clinton, in which case why should Bloomy pass and let Jon Huntsman or whoever gain the glory of being the media’s designated “sensible” middle-ground candidate in the race? The trick for establishment Republicans in recruiting an independent challenger to Trump in the general election is that any pol with a future in the Republican Party wouldn’t dare take on the responsibility, knowing that GOP voters would blame him for enabling Hillary’s eventual victory. None of that is a problem for Bloomberg. He could style his candidacy as a spot for “solutions-oriented” people who are “serious about compromise” to park their votes; he’d get a ton of press out of it, a spot onstage at the debates next fall, a megaphone for his gun nonsense, and probably a few high-profile endorsements from Trump-hating establishment GOPers. He could even frame his run as the beginning of what he hopes will be a durable third-party which he’ll fund in the years ahead. He really has nothing to lose.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on June 02, 2023