Interesting timing, what with the first votes in New Hampshire set to be cast just a few hours from now.
Between Trump, Sanders, and Cruz, I did not realize that the problem with the 2016 primary campaign was that the discourse is too “distressingly banal.” Also, in what universe is Michael Bloomberg the solution to the problem of politics being too banal?
Speaking to the Financial Times, the founder of the eponymous financial information group criticised the quality of the debate in the presidential race. He said that he was “looking at all the options” when asked whether he was considering putting his name forward.
“I find the level of discourse and discussion distressingly banal and an outrage and an insult to the voters,” Mr Bloomberg said in an interview, before adding that the US public deserved “a lot better”…
Mr Bloomberg told the FT that he would need to start putting his name on ballots across the US at the beginning of March. “I’m listening to what candidates are saying and what the primary voters appear to be doing,” he said.
Pretty obvious media strategy here. Trump and Sanders, the two most radical candidates in the race, seem well on their way to victory in New Hampshire. Inevitably the media reaction will be a combination of “Can either of these guys go all the way?” and “What’s to become of America if either of these guys go all the way?!” Bloomberg’s now in the conversation tomorrow night as a possible “reasonable” independent option, even though the likeliest outcome of a third-party run would be peeling off enough votes from one party in purple states to hand victory there to another. Even in a best-case scenario, where he actually wins some electoral votes himself, there’s zero chance that he wins 270. Which means the Republican House would decide the election.
Which party, though, would benefit most from a Bloomberg run? A poll from Morning Consult released last month had Hillary up 44/42 over Trump head to head, but with Bloomberg in the race the results flipped to Trump 37, Hillary 36, Bloomberg 13. That was a national poll; what those results would look like in swing states like Ohio and Colorado is as yet unknown. Don’t be quick to draw the conclusion, though, that Bloomberg’s entry would help the Republican nominee in every conceivable match-up. According to Frank Luntz, that’s not true:
In a race against Clinton and Republican primary hopeful Ted Cruz, Bloomberg receives 28 percent of the vote, compared to Clinton’s 37 percent and Cruz’s 35 percent.
And in a scenario in which Republican primary hopeful Marco Rubio wins his party’s nomination, Bloomberg receives 28 percent of the vote, compared to Rubio’s 38 percent and Clinton’s 35 percent…
The poll also finds that when either Trump or Cruz is the GOP nominee, Bloomberg draws more support from Republicans than from Democrats, winning 26 and 23 percent of GOP voters, respectively.
When Rubio is the GOP nominee, only 18 percent of Republicans defect to support the former mayor.
So Hillary wins a three-man race with Cruz and Bloomberg but Rubio wins a three-man race with Hillary and Bloomberg. Luntz didn’t test the effect of having Sanders as nominee instead of Hillary, which is a shame because those results might confirm the general sense you get from the other data here — namely, that the more “mainstream” the nominees are for the major parties, the more Bloomberg, a longtime Democrat turned center-left independent, hurts the Democrats. Nominate an ideologue like Cruz or a strong populist like Trump and some critical mass of center-righties will defect to Bloomberg, handing Hillary the win. Nominate a center-righty like Rubio (or Jeb?) and the Republican coalition holds more or less together, giving the GOP a narrow win as some centrist Democrats break Bloomberg’s way. That’s an interesting warning to New Hampshire voters not to give in to fringier candidates tomorrow lest Bloomberg make them pay for it in November.
Quinnipiac actually polled a hypothetical Sanders/Trump/Bloomberg race and a Sanders/Cruz/Bloomberg race earlier this week. Make of this what you will:
Here’s Luntz sketching out a path for Bloomberg, which is silly since we all know Mitt Romney will be elected president as an independent after Trump becomes the nominee.