Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg would clearly be bucking history if he launches an independent campaign for president later this year, as he reportedly is contemplating.
Indeed, previous independent and third party campaigns for president dating back to Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 and H. Ross Perot in 1992 have all flamed out. Bloomberg, the 73-year-old billionaire and political moderate, would likely face the same fate should he launch an improbable national campaign at this late date.
If Bloomberg enters the 2016 presidential race by early March – a strong possibility according to a report on Saturday by The New York Times – he would scramble an already chaotic and highly divisive campaign dominated by anti-establishment, political “outsiders” like Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders.
Moreover, while Bloomberg likely could barely break into the double digits in national polls should he mount a campaign, his candidacy would help Trump or whoever the GOP nominee is by draining moderates and independents from the Democratic nominee, according to some experts.
“I would love to see Michael Bloomberg run,” Trump told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “I would love that competition. I think I would do very well against him.”
Meanwhile, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said on the same program that her understanding is that Bloomberg would only enter the race if she loses the nomination to Sanders, setting up a Trump-Sanders showdown in the general election that might create an opening for a moderate to wage an independent race. “Well, I’m going to relieve [Bloomberg] of that and get the nomination, so he doesn’t have to run.”
A new Morning Consult national poll shows that Bloomberg would have a tough time developing the name identification necessary to put him into serious contention for president. For one thing, he lacks the political firepower of someone like Trump or Cruz. And despite his years as a dominant big city mayor and government innovator, he lacks the national experience and standing of Clinton, the former secretary of state and U.S. senator, or even Sanders for that matter.
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Just 30 percent of voters have a favorable view of Bloomberg, according to the new poll; many more (43 percent) have never heard of him or know little about him. Nonetheless, should he decide to enter the race it would be primarily to the detriment of the Democrats.
In a hypothetical three-way race, the Morning Consult survey shows that Bloomberg would pick up 13 percent of the vote, with most of that coming from independents. Trump, meanwhile, would narrowly lead Clinton, 37 percent to 36 percent in the contest. By contrast, in a two-way race with Bloomberg out of the picture, Clinton would edge Trump, 44 percent to 42 percent, with 14 percent of voters undecided.
The survey of 4,060 registered voters was conducted January 14-17 and has a two-point margin of error.
The New York Times reports that Bloomberg has ordered some of his advisers to begin sketching out plans for a potential independent campaign. The former mayor and media baron is reportedly “galled by Trump’s dominance” in the GOP campaign and perplexed and troubled by how poorly Clinton is doing against Sanders in the race for the Democratic nomination.
Yet if he were to enter the race, he might inadvertently help elect Trump – another billionaire politician whose conservative views on many major issues clash with those of the moderate Bloomberg.
Bloomberg has spent considerable funds on a national campaign to promote tougher gun control laws, and is prepared to spend as much as $1 billion of his fortune on a long-shot independent presidential campaign.
This isn’t the first time Bloomberg has considered waging an independent bid for the White House. While still mayor, he changed his party affiliation from Republican to independent in 2007. His announcement followed a major speech he delivered that denounced bitter partisanship and gridlock in the nation’s capital. Some speculated that he would launch an independent or third party campaign for president in 2008, but that campaign never materialized.