Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg looks like he is about to jump into the Democratic primary for president.
But two things are apparent:
- He won’t win the Democratic nomination.
- He could be a very viable third party candidate with a real chance of winning the presidency.
He won’t win the Democratic nomination, in part, because he is repeating the exact same mistake his mayoral predecessor Rudy Giuliani made in seeking the Republican nomination in 2008 — he seems unwilling to compete in the early caucus and primary in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Giuliani learned that you can’t sit out the first two rounds, enter the ring in round three, and expect to be anointed the victor.
The gravitational force of the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries sucks in everybody and dominates the news. If you are not in, you are out and those who are in will suck up all the time, attention and oxygen.
By the time you get around to finding a primary that suits your liking, the world has passed you by. Your supporters have a new hero and you are yesterday’s news.
Even if Bloomberg manages to parachute into the race and still get a footing and run, he can’t win the Democratic nod. Bloomberg’s past as a Republican will come back to haunt him.
As New York City mayor, he wisely backed the stop-and-frisk program, for example, now anathema among Democrats. It puts criminals in jail before they can commit other crimes. No wonder the Democrats are opposed.
He also supported Giuliani’s policy of strict enforcement of minor offenses as the best way to cleanse a neighborhood. Faced with practical problems like controlling crime, Bloomberg opted for pragmatic non-partisan and non-ideological policies and the left won’t forgive him.
We can all see Elizabeth Warren excoriating him, saying we already have a Republican billionaire in the race. We don’t need two.
But Bloomberg’s candidacy may be a shrewd maneuver to set up a third-party bid in November.
By showing his flag in the Democratic primaries, he can build the organizational momentum for a third-party bid.
The first pre-condition for an independent is to run against two unpopular main party candidates. Warren and Trump fill that bill nicely. Their extreme polarization along ideological lines leaves a massive running room in the middle. Not enough to win a majority in either party, but enough to carve a plurality out of the whole electorate.
Bloomberg, obviously, would have the money and, with his vigorous opposition to guns, has already earned a base in the electorate.
In the short term, of course, an independent candidacy would help Trump. But Bloomberg may think — erroneously in my view — that weakened by impeachment, Trump’s base may divide. Bloomberg would hope that the I-like-Trump’s-policies-but-not-him vote will peel off.
In the near term, Bloomberg will likely blow Biden out of the race and prevent the rise of Pete Buttigieg.
There isn’t room for two moderates, much less three in the Democratic field.
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