Did Mike Bloomberg help Donald Trump?

It turns out that the most salient phrase in Mike Bloomberg’s March 7 op-ed was the throwaway line “as the race stands now.” It sure didn’t stay that way for long. No matter what the elites desire, Trump is emerging as the choice of independent voters. A strong case can be made that Trump is the de facto independent—and that Republican Party is the entity without a candidate in this race.

I ran this argument by Kansas City-area businessman Greg Orman to gauge his reaction. Orman knows something about running for office as an independent. He challenged Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas in 2014, gaining enough traction to chase out the Democratic candidate, but ultimately losing the race in that deeply red GOP bastion. Orman took issue with my characterization, saying that once Trump chose to run as a Republican (and at least nominally adopt Republican stances he’d not taken before) he’d forfeited his standing to be considered an independent.

Maybe that’s right. Or maybe Orman is trying to keep his own options open. I only know for sure that even people close to Mike Bloomberg are wondering whether the conventional wisdom of early March still applies to late May. I mentioned this to Douglas Schoen, a prominent and astute centrist Democrat and political scholar—and Bloomberg confidant.

“It is impossible to say what would have or could have happened,” Schoen replied. “What I can say is that Mike Bloomberg’s critique of our politics as corrupt, unproductive, dishonest, and donor-driven has been validated.”