By Richard Norman
These last few weeks there’s been a lot of gossip about New York mayor Michael Bloomberg putting together a potential third party run at the White House. Bloomberg is a socially progressive, fiscally conservative Republican, but much less at home in the Republican party than the similarly self-identifying Rudy Giuliani. Bloomberg is also a billionaire several times over, and not afraid to spend his own money during campaigns. While some criticized the eighty-four million dollars he spent in his 2005 mayoral re-election campaign (more than ten times his challenger), others argued it freed him from the grip of lobbyists and fundraisers. At any rate, he is a very popular politician in New York, the toughest media market in the country (as the Hillary Clinton camp is fond of calling it). Freed from the constraints of the two party system, Bloomberg could spend hundreds of millions of his own money in a presidential bid, potentially stealing votes from both the Republican and Democratic nominees, and coming up the middle to win. Unlike the other candidates who would be forced to spend an ungodly amount of time on the fundraising circuit during the campaign, Bloomberg would be free to organize, host town-halls, and visit local IHOPs to meet and greet ordinary citizens. Money simply wouldn’t be an issue (his joking definition of good financial planning, according to friends, is making sure the check to the undertaker bounces when it’s finally time to go). It sounds good. But money isn’t everything, and this is all more of novelty idea than a substantial one, as a recent article at Politico.com makes clear.
Bloomberg would have to win the presidency on his own merits. His chief merit, his chief selling point, would be his competence. He can get things done around the nation, he will tell voters, as he has gotten things done in New York. Which is also Rudy Giuliani’s chief selling point. And, now that you mention it, Hillary Clinton also stresses competence and experience, as does John McCain, as does Mitt Romney, as do several other candidates. Nor, outside of New York City, is Bloomberg the household name you might think he is. A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll conducted last week showed that 35 percent of registered voters nationwide had never heard of him. Only 23 percent had a favorable view, while 14 percent had an unfavorable view and 27 percent were unsure.
Although there has been some griping from extremist elements in both the Democratic and Republican parties (the left can’t find a mainstream candidate willing to put George Bush on trial as a war criminal and the right can’t find a mainstream candidate who walks on water), I think the current field of presidential candidates is very deep. Both parties have highly qualified, competent, and substantial candidates. And one more, even if he’s very, very rich, won’t turn anyone’s head. Click here to see a Politico slideshow of previous American third party presidential candidates. –Richard