While still insisting he is not running for president, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg signaled his seriousness about a possible independent campaign by meeting with the ballot access expert and campaign manager for H. Ross Perot's third-party presidential bid.
Bloomberg's latest trip outside New York -- one of a growing number he has taken while building his national profile in recent months -- was to continue Saturday in California where he planned to appear in Los Angeles with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Bloomberg met privately Friday with Clay Mulford, who is well-versed in third-party ballot access and served as campaign manager for Perot, according to an individual close to the mayor. The Texas businessman sought the presidency in 1992 and 1996.
Party ops on both sides are looking at Michael Bloomberg with a certain amount of uneasiness. Democrats remember how Ralph Nader hurt them, while Republicans remember how Perot may have helped bring about Bill Clinton's presidency.
As a third party candidate, Bloomberg would be more Ross Perot than Ralph Nader. See, Mike's got a gazillion dollars and some worry that he's going to try to buy the presidency. I'd argue that so is Mitt Romney and, so far, it's not working. You may be able to buy your way into the top tier, but that doesn't guarantee a win.
So who would a Bloomberg candidacy hurt? Sadly for Mike, a new Gallup poll shows that the answer is no one.
...[R]ecent Gallup polling has assessed some of the public's attitudes that could be related to the ultimate success of an independent or third-party candidate running against the two major-party candidates this year. The data show that Americans are quite positive about the candidates running for president so far, and believe they have suggested good solutions to the nation's problems, marking a sharp contrast with what these same measures showed in early 1992. Thus, while dissatisfaction in general is high, the American public does not appear to believe it is important or necessary for an independent candidate outside of the traditional two major parties to step into the race in order to save the nation.
So Bloomberg would be providing a solution to a problem that few believe exists. If I were really forced to pin down which party would be hurt most, I'd have to say the GOP. While satisfaction with the candidates over all seems pretty solid, it's the Democrats who are most excited about the race. Another Gallup poll shows that 64% of dems and dem leaners are "extremely" or "very" enthusiastic, while 52% of GOP and GOP leaners are. But it's clear that there's no big groundswell for some third party candidate to come and save us from our lousy choices.
What Bloomberg would likely become would be the "vanity candidate." Although, there is some indication of some sort of support out there. Bloomberg Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey met with Unity08's Gerald Rafshoon in 2006. Unity08 is a centrist organization that wants either a president and vice president from either party or a president from neither party. Mike fits the bill for the latter.
If we go to Unity08's homepage, we see that it's shut down -- with only a message to supporters remaining. But if we read the message, we're told that "waiting in the wings should the [left/right] divide persist, is the potential of a serious non-partisan candidacy in the person of the Mayor of New York (two of our founders Doug Bailey and Gerald Rafshoon have stepped down from the board and may have more to say about their plans in the near future)."
Where did Bailey and Rafshoon go? To start a "Draft Michael Bloomberg" campaign. Bailey's a republican consultant and Rafshoon was the White House communications director under Carter. Obviously, these people have some connections, but two high-powered staffers does not a campaign make.
The problem for Bloomberg's, Bailey's, and Rafshoon's call for political unity is that the electorate doesn't want it. People complain about partisanship, sure, but the truth is that we want it. I've said it many, many times -- people don't vote for things, people vote against things. Adding to this is the fact that President Bush has yanked his party so far to the right that the "political center" of American politics is now center right. Left meeting the right halfway would effectively mean abandoning liberalism altogether -- that's not going to happen.
Another thing I've said before is that, when one side is crazy, meeting them halfway is halfway crazy. No one wants to do that. It's always the other side that's wrong and only by moving in your direction would be there be a correction.
So Bloomberg can spend a whole bunch of money on a presidential bid (and, with all the consultants and pollsters, you have to assume he already has), but it's not likely to get him anywhere. He can ask, "Can't we all get along?" but when people look across the divide and see just how insane the other side seems, they'll answer, "You're kidding, right?"
Maybe he'd make a good president, but the truth is that we'll probably never know. A third party candidate is not going to win -- or even be competitive. Gallup tells us, "...Americans at this juncture seem much more willing to say that the current crop of candidates running in the major parties have discussed good solutions to the nation's problems and, as a result, there is a high level of satisfaction with those currently running." Without that dissatisfaction, a Bloomberg run is probably going nowhere.
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