Guard the Big Gulps and the guns, and store up on the table salt while you’re at it. “Galled” by the lasting power of Donald Trump with Republicans and the incompetence of Hillary Clinton in closing the sale with Democrats, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg may enter the race as an independent. The New York Times reports today that Bloomberg will loosen up at least a billion dollars of his own money if he decides he can win in November:
Galled by Donald J. Trump’s dominance of the Republican field, and troubled by Hillary Clinton’s stumbles and the rise of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on the Democratic side, Michael R. Bloomberg has instructed advisers to draw up plans for an independent campaign in this year’s presidential race.
Mr. Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, has in the past contemplated running for the White House on a third-party ticket, but always concluded he could not win. A confluence of unlikely events in the 2016 election, however, has given new impetus to his presidential aspirations.
Mr. Bloomberg, 73, has already taken concrete steps toward a possible campaign, and has indicated to friends and allies that he would be willing to spend at least $1 billion of his fortune on it, according to people briefed on his deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss his plans. He has set a deadline for making a final decision in early March, the latest point at which advisers believe Mr. Bloomberg could enter the race and still qualify to appear as an independent candidate on the ballot in all 50 states.
He has retained a consultant to help him explore getting his name on those ballots, and his aides have done a detailed study of past third-party bids. Mr. Bloomberg commissioned a poll in December to see how he might fare against Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, and he intends to conduct another round of polling after the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9 to gauge whether there is indeed an opening for him, according to two people familiar with his intentions.
Allahpundit wrote about the existing polling on a three-way race yesterday, in fact:
The million-dollar (well, billion-dollar) question: Who does Bloomberg hurt more? As it turns out, Hillary. Without him in the race, Hillary narrowly leads Trump, 44/42. Even better news for Trump fans is that Trump does better against Hillary in a three-way race than either Cruz or Rubio does. Against Cruz, Hillary leads 38/34/11; against Rubio, it’s 38/33/10. That’s partly a function of the fact that Cruz and Rubio are lesser known to Americans than Trump is, but if you’re looking for evidence that he’ll give her a tougher race by bringing in heterodox Democrats and independents than a more dogmatic right-winger will, there you go.
With the major-party nominations in such flux, it’s not uncommon to see people consider or even launch independent bids for the presidency. Most of them turn out for naught, and the few that do matter impact the races as spoilers. Ross Perot did it twice, although only his first effort in 1992 could arguably be considered as a catalyst for the outcome. Ralph Nader may have cost Al Gore the election in Florida in 2000, but again that’s an arguable point. (All Gore had to do to win was carry his home state of Tennessee, and he failed at that basic electoral necessity. Even Walter Mondale managed to win his home state while losing a 49-state landslide to Ronald Reagan.)
Bloomberg differs from all of these erstwhile candidates for a number of reasons, not all of them connected to his cash reserves. First, being mayor of New York is a position with a national profile, even more so than some governors. Most people know Bill DeBlasio is the mayor of the Big Apple, but who knows off the top of their heads who the governor of Idaho is? The population of nine million and the proximity to the central core of national media makes NYC mayors matter on a national basis. On top of that, Bloomberg has remained politically active in the gun-control movement, among other things, which allowed him to expand his political network across the nation.
Given all of that and his practically unlimited personal resources, Bloomberg would start off as a formidable candidate, even if both parties were united already behind their nominees. (Bloomberg’s wealth is estimated at $35.5 billion by Forbes; Trump’s comes in at $4.1 billion.) He’d be able to tap into the anti-establishment fervor roiling both parties, and add in his extensive executive experience in both the private and public sectors, something which none of the current top contenders offer at the moment. Assuming he spent enough to build an effective ground campaign, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bloomberg do something no independent presidential candidate has done in decades — win Electoral College votes in a general election, starting with New York, which Democrats cannot afford to lose.
If Bloomberg entered the race, he’d change all the dynamics in ways that would hobble both parties.Voters in swing states like Florida, Ohio, and Virginia want people who can make the system work again, not another eight years of the same old battles playing out in the same old ways, which is why they want to jettison the old establishments in government and political parties. Democrats would feel it more than Republicans, but if it comes to a battle of tycoons, Bloomberg has both the resources and the political skills to win against the Republicans, too. A Bloomberg bid would be the nightmare scenario for both Republicans and Democrats … and a huge boost to the nanny state.