In all the flurry and distractions, I overlooked this analysis from a couple of weeks ago. So at the risk of seeming to cravenly grab for hits, I’m smiting my Bloomberg in ’08 hot button again.
Wednesday, Jun. 20, 2007
Would Bloomberg Have a Chance?
By Mark Halperin
The national political press corps has plenty of reasons to be fascinated by the prospect of (newly) independent New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg running for President next year.
First, the press likes Bloomberg himself — he’s one of us (just a tad richer), having earned his fortune running his eponymous media company —and many of the biggest players in New York and Washington media circles are chummy with the dinner-party-charming Mayor.
Second, the press is perpetually interested in two things that a Bloomberg candidacy would represent: super-wealthy self-funding candidates, and plausible independent runs for the White House.
Finally, with basement-dwelling poll numbers for President Bush, along with real doubts about the leading Presidential candidates of the two major parties, Bloomberg’s call for independent, non-partisan problem solving free of the typical Beltway bickering seems to be a perfect part of an emerging storyline.
Still, even Bloomberg’s most ardent boosters recognize the daunting realities of the past (independents don’t win the Presidency) and the future (if Bloomberg enters the race and looks like he might win, Republicans and Democrats would team up to try to destroy him).
Most of the obvious attacks on a Presidential candidate Bloomberg would come from the right. Conservative activists would assail his views on gay marriage, the death penalty, gun control and taxes as typical New York City liberalism. Both sides would say he lacked national security experience and explore his background, looking for business and personal vulnerabilities. Bloomberg would try to fight off the efforts to define him with hundreds of millions of dollars of television commercials, and would likely spend a similar amount trying to define the other candidates as out of touch and extreme.
Clearly Bloomberg does not plan to enter the race until he sees whom the major parties settle on as nominees, likely early next year. At that point, he would look to see how unfavorably those two candidates are seen, how sour the mood of the country is on politics-as-usual, and how open the electorate seems to a candidate Bloomberg himself describes as “a short, Jewish, divorced billionaire,” one who has now turned his back on both the Democrats and the Republicans.
And here’s the thing: Bloomberg will only enter the race if he believes he has a reasonable chance to win, but he almost certainly never will be the favorite to win, simply because as an independent he could not be expected to get more than, say, 35% of the vote at best, requiring the political equivalent of drawing an inside straight to win the necessary 270 electoral votes to take the White House. Even H. Ross Perot, despite taking a respectable 19% of the popular vote in 1992, couldn’t win a single electoral vote.
So the more urgent question is, which party would be more hurt by his entry into the race?
Although there are statistics and arguments on both sides, Perot almost certainly hurt George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole (and helped Bill Clinton) in his two Presidential runs, while Ralph Nader clearly benefited George W. Bush in 2000 against Al Gore. Despite Bloomberg’s reformist views on welfare and education that put him more in line with conservatives, on a national level, he would almost certainly hurt the Democratic nominee more than the Republican.
But Presidential elections aren’t national contests — they are races to those 270 electoral votes. Playing around with the National Archives Electoral College calculator (as I did for most of my morning Wednesday) shows that it isn’t impossible for Bloomberg to get enough votes to win, but it is tough indeed. The more interesting question is which reliably Red and Blue states could shift from one side to the other with Bloomberg on the ballot. Of course, determining that in a rigorous way is impossible without knowing who the other candidates will be among the various possible combinations (the all-New York match up of Giuliani versus Clinton versus Bloomberg is particularly imponderable), and without knowing what the mood of the nation will be in 2008.
It appears that a massively funded Bloomberg candidacy would endanger more states won by Gore and Kerry than those won by Bush. On the other hand, if Bloomberg was able to pick off some electoral votes, he could theoretically throw the outcome into the House of Representatives, producing another set of complex what-ifs.
We won’t know until next year if Bloomberg will run. And unlike political reporters, who have the time and inclination to speculate endlessly about every possible eventuality, presidential campaigns live by one simple rule: don’t worry about things you can’t control. For now, all of the announced Presidential candidates are locked in fierce trench warfare trying to secure their positions on the general election ballot as their party’s nominee. Wondering how to beat Michael Bloomberg will wait for another day, down the road and a million political years away.
Copyright � 2007 Time Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Sounds very plausible, doesn’t it? This micro-bandwagon has
legs wheels! Put this together with National Popular Vote, and you might have a viable way to set this country back on course.
It’s it for now. Thanks,