Apparently you simply can’t keep some people from working, even when they are allegedly on vacation. Such is the case with Ed Morrissey, who unveils his latest column at The Week today. The subject is one which crops up every four years, though it generally winds up being more of a “slow news week” parlor game than a serious consideration: the possibility of a third party run for the White House. We’ve heard plenty of rumors on this subject already, but Ed’s focus is not on the names you hear most often.
The first votes have not yet been cast in the Republican primaries, and we’re already beginning to hear talk of independent runs for the presidency. In part, that springs from a sense of dissatisfaction — or at least surprise — with the way the primary field has performed this year, and with the candidates who appear to have risen to the top. Few would have guessed that after the surprising Tea Party triumph in the 2010 midterms, the top two contenders for the GOP nomination would be the man who implemented a precursor of ObamaCare and a longtime Beltway insider whose personal baggage had long kept him from serious consideration.
Barring a surprise in the next five or six weeks, there won’t be a candidate to quickly unite the conservative base, the moderates, and the independents. If the primary competition lasts deep into March and April, it will pit these elements of the Republican umbrella against each other. In that kind of environment, it’s possible that a schism could develop that produces an opportunity for an independent candidate — or perhaps more than one.
After providing a brief history of failed third party bids and the effect they’ve had on the eventual outcome, (or lack thereof) Ed observes that the most frequently cited GOP possibilities will probably stay on the bench. Those are Ron Paul and Sarah Palin. But there is another figure out there with both the financial clout and the extant national organization who might consider it, causing more trouble for the party of the donkey than the elephant.
Self-funding wouldn’t be a problem for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The multi-billionaire media mogul could easily follow the Perot model and launch a national campaign. This would hardly be a Republican nightmare, however, despite Bloomberg’s occasional affiliation with the GOP. There are few Republicans who would rush to the side of a notorious gun-control advocate who has pursued government mandates on salt use in restaurants and restrictions on outdoor smoking. Bloomberg’s most likely impact would be on northeastern states such as New York and Connecticut, two Democratic strongholds in which Republicans wouldn’t contend otherwise. Bloomberg could also draw votes away from Obama in Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, which would fatally weaken Obama’s already slim chances of winning a second term.
Of all the independent bid possibilities, Bloomberg’s is the most likely — or at least the least unlikely. Bloomberg took aim at Obama’s lack of leadership in the super committee debacle last week, perhaps signaling some consideration of a run for the White House. He could build an organization nearly overnight with his own funding, and Bloomberg might gain traction among those on the center-left and traditional Democratic donors on Wall Street who have grown disenchanted with the class warfare adopted by the Democratic Party, perhaps especially after the incitement of the Occupy movement — which Bloomberg also recently and repeatedly criticized.
I agree that Bloomberg could do it, and given his massive ego and apparent boredom with his current job, he just might. Obviously he wouldn’t win the White House, but would he have the impact Ed suggests? Yes, he might carry some votes in New York, particularly in the Big Apple, but somehow I can’t see it being enough to turn this bluest of states red for 2012. But he could seriously eat into Obama’s totals in some other, independent minded places like New Hampshire or – possibly – Minnesota. Far fetched, you say? They elected Jesse Ventura and Al Franken. I don’t think anything is off the table.