Dateline: 16 August 2006
Mike Bloomberg is a popular mayor in a city the size of a state. It has more than twice the population of the state which Bill Clinton governed when he ran for the Presidency. A lifelong Democrat he switched to the Republicans in 2001, reportedly to avoid the crowded field in the mayoral primary. He is not beholden to any party or special interest. He funds his own campaigns and outspends his opponents by five or ten to one, without accepting a cent from lobbyists or the taxpayer.
Sources close to Bloomberg have suggested he might run for the Presidency, either as an independent or as a Democrat. My guess is that a serving Republican mayor would have little chance in the Democrat primaries, so let us concentrate on his appeal as an independent.
He is as rich as Ross Perot, who garnered almost 20% of the vote in 1992. He has clear advantages over Perot. Unlike Perot, he has real political experience. But it was part of Perot’s appeal that he could take none of the credit and none of the blame, for the state of the country
Perot also had no base, and this was a real problem. In terms of the popular vote, he outperformed George Wallace’s Dixiecrat run of 1968, but Wallace won five southern states, two with more than half the vote. Perot not only failed to win a single state, he was third in 48 states and in DC. Even his birthplace – Texarkana – was no use to him. If he had fought, say Bob Dole and John Kerry, perhaps Texas and Arkansas would have accepted him as a favorite son, but in 1992 both states were spoken for.
Bloomberg has a base. He is a regular fixture on the TV screens of New York City and its commuter belt, taking in most of the voters in the tristate area. To fund a campaign himself would probably cost him $200 million – more than three times what Perot paid, but he is good for it. Forbes estimates his wealth at around five billion.
Talk of a Bloomberg candidacy makes the main parties nervous, which cannot be a bad thing. His policies are centrist, which in New York has made him a Republican. Liberal Republicans are the only ones that can carry the city, whereas the Democrats of the city lean far to the left. Nationwide his centrist approach could undermine both the parties, as well as pulling in voters who would otherwise abstain.
Bloomberg would not need to do as well as Perot to affect the outcome of the election. With just 10% of the vote, and perhaps double that in the tristate area, his impact would be huge. With 15-20% nationwide he could seriously hope to carry NY, NJ and CT.
Republicans fear that if the party chooses a hardline conservative, Bloomberg will take votes from them. Of course this is most likely to happen in northeastern states which don’t vote Republican anyway, but he could take a small but critical slice in the swing states too. Sources close to Hillary Clinton have their own fears. Bloomberg could put into play three states that any Democrat needs to regard as solid to have the slightest chance of winning. His $200 million ticket could give us all some excitement.
Quentin Langley is editor of http://www.quentinlangley.net an academic at the University of Cardiff and is a columnist with Campaigns & Elections. This article was first published in the Common Sense series for Lake Champlain Weekly.