That other egomaniac Manhattan billionaire with delusions of political grandeur, Mike Bloomberg, is talking seriously about running for president, The New York Times, reports, even though it's clearly an exercise in futility:
Michael R. Bloomberg has instructed advisers to draw up plans for a potential independent campaign in this year’s presidential race. His advisers and associates said he was galled by Donald J. Trump’s dominance of the Republican field, and troubled by Hillary Clinton’s stumbles and the rise of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on the Democratic side.
Keep reading -- with regard to Hillary, it's not just about "stumbles."
... Mr. Bloomberg, 73, has already taken concrete steps toward a possible campaign, and has indicated to friends and allies that he would be willing to spend at least $1 billion of his fortune on it, according to people briefed on his deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss his plans.
... Mr. Bloomberg commissioned a poll in December to see how he might fare against Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, and he intends to conduct another round of polling after the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9 to gauge whether there is indeed an opening for him, according to two people familiar with his intentions.
I wish I remembered which political journalist on Twitter pointed out that Bloomberg never actually released the results of that polling, or even leaked bits of what the poll uncovered -- which means, this journalist noted, that the poll must have contained nothing to indicate that Bloomberg has a chance of winning.
Oh, but here's my favorite part of the Times story:
Mr. Bloomberg’s aides have sketched out one version of a campaign plan that would have the former mayor, a low-key and cerebral personality, deliver a series of detailed policy speeches, backed by an intense television advertising campaign that would introduce him to voters around the country as a technocratic problem-solver....
Yeah, that's really what America wants this year, isn't it?
Beyond that? Bloomberg is uncharismatic. He's Jewish. He's not very tall. He has a (female) domestic partner whom he's never married. He's East Coast in a boring (Kerry/Dukakis) way rather than a pugnacious (Trump) way.
So what's this all about, besides Bloomberg's ego? Well, in part it's about the extremism, and alleged unelectability, of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, the two front-runners on the GOP side. But beyond that, it's about ... leftist barbarians at the gates. And no, Bloomberg doesn't just mean Bernie Sanders:
If Republicans were to nominate Mr. Trump or Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a hard-line conservative, and Democrats were to pick Mr. Sanders, Mr. Bloomberg ... has told allies he would be likely to run....
At the same time, these associates said, he has grown more frustrated with what he sees a race gone haywire. A longtime critic of partisan primary elections, Mr. Bloomberg has lamented what he considers Mrs. Clinton’s lurch to the left in her contest against Mr. Sanders, especially her criticism of charter schools and other education reforms that he pushed as mayor and has continued to support since leaving office.
With regard to Hillary, I don't think it's just the charter schools. She's made economic-left noises in this campaign, and Bloomberg doesn't like that sort of thing. Recall that he endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, but turned on the president not long afterward because the president was being mean to his precious Wall Streeters:
New York mayor Mike Bloomberg is outraged by Washington's attack on his city's primary source of tax revenue. And he has lobbed in a tit-for-tat plan to hold Congress accountable, too.
..."The mayor was so upset about the move ... he responded with a proposal of his own for members of Congress.
"Maybe we should hold back their salaries for a decade or so and see whether the laws they pass work out," Bloomberg said.
Early polling doesn't tell us much about how Bloomberg would do, but there are hints in this Morning Consult poll:
When pitted in a three-way race with former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump gets 37 percent of voters, Democrat leader Hillary Clinton gets 36 percent and Bloomberg, an independent, gets 13 percent....
In a two-way race, Clinton edges out Trump by a 44 to 42 percent margin....
So Bloomberg's presence in the race takes it from a Clinton victory to a Trump victory, although the margins are small. Cruz-Clinton-Bloomberg and Rubio-Clinton-Bloomberg are also surveyed, and we're told that "Clinton’s lead solidifies" with Bloomberg in the race, though we don't see the two-way results for comparison.
However, there's this:
Bloomberg’s favorability rating is +13 among Democrats (33 percent favorable, 20 percent unfavorable), +6 among independents (32 percent favorable, 26 percent unfavorable) and -9 among Republicans (26 percent favorable, 35 percent unfavorable).
Those negative numbers among Republicans are the real problem. Republicans who follow politics closely don't care that he sticks up for big business, or that he presided over a decade of stop-and-frisk policing. They know two things about him: he's a passionate gun-control advocate and he wanted to take away everyone's Big Gulps. I don't care how much money he has, or how centrist his campaign is -- by November, GOP propaganda will make him as hated on the right as Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi. They don't do "Bloomberg gun giveaways" in heartland America for nothing.
So Donald Trump is probably right:
... in an interview with ABC News that aired last weekend, Mr. Trump said he would welcome a presidential campaign by Mr. Bloomberg, whom he called “a friend” and “a great guy.”
Mr. Bloomberg, he predicted, would “take a lot of votes away from Hillary.”
But the fact that Bloomberg is far more likely to run if the race is Sanders-Trump or Sanders-Cruz (would he run if it were Sanders-Rubio?) tells me that Bernie would have a hell of a time winning a general election, in part because of Democrats, and people like Bloomberg who've voted Democratic in the past. There's an awful quote from Ed Rendell in the Times article:
In a three-way race featuring Mr. Sanders and Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Rendell said he might back the moderate former New York mayor.
“As a lifelong Democrat, as a former party chairman, it would be very hard for me to do that,” he said. “But I would certainly take a look at it -- absolutely.”
There's a lot of talk out there about a plot by centrist Democrats to deny Sanders the nomination. I'm less woried about that than I am about the possibility -- the likelihood? -- that influential Democrats and left-centrist pundits would reject Sanders in a general election, the way many rejected George McGovern in the 1972 presidential race and Ned Lamont in his 2006 Senate race against Joe Lieberman.
Here's some fretting in an MSNBC story:
“I don’t know how you run a campaign in a southern or red state with a democratic socialist at the top of the ticket,” said the campaign manager for one red state Democrat. “It becomes near impossible to separate yourself enough to win over the conservative independents you need to win.”
It’s a similar warning to the one raised this week by Clinton allies Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Rep. Steve Cohen – and people on the ground and in the trenches working to elect Democrats have an even more tactical view.
“I think it would be a nightmare, plain and simple,” said one former Blue Dog staffer current working on a statewide campaign in a state Obama did not win. “It’s something that’s starting to come up in conversation with decent regularly. People are concerned about what affect it would have on the entire rest of the ballot from state legislators to gubernatorial and Senate races.”
Here's Joe Klein writing for Time:
It is still far more likely that Clinton wins the Democratic nomination than Sanders -- but even Bernie should worry about his party strolling into the general election unwilling to distinguish itself from socialism. Indeed, the Democrats should worry about their attachment to big government, which, in America, has come to mean more unaccountable bureaucracy, like the Department of Veterans Affairs; more inefficiency, like the weird tangle of federal job-training programs, each more irrelevant than the last; and more perverse incentives, like welfare programs that ask for nothing–no personal responsibility–in return from their recipients. Big government is the way I was treated at the post office this afternoon.
So we have this strange election: Republicans race toward know-nothing nativism, and Democrats stumble toward socialism. Both are reactionary, discredited ideas. I want my country back!
That reads as if it's intended to be a Bloomberg-for-president manifesto, even though the former mayor's name isn't mentioned once.
If Sanders is nominated and Bloomberg runs, Morning Joe and the Sunday talk shows are going to be given over to endless denunciations of socialism from the likes of Bob Kerry, Joe Manchin, Joe Lieberman, and Harold Ford. I'd love to think that Democratic voters wouldn't be swayed by all that, but an awful lot of rank-and-file Dems regard themselves as moderates. We know that's the case because our presidential elections skew Democratic even though Gallup regularly finds that far more Americans say they're conservatives than say they're liberals.
No, Bloomberg won't win. But he might gift-wrap the presidency for the GOP, with corporatist Democrats' help.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog