Bloomberg Switches Parties Again, Setting up Independent White House Bid
NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, long rumored to be setting up an independent bid for the White House, announced last night that he’s changed his party affiliation to Independent.
Michael R. Bloomberg, a longtime Democrat who switched to the Republican Party to run for mayor of New York City in 2001, announced this evening that he is changing his party status and registering as an independent.
Mr. Bloomberg’s decision — the first change in party affiliation by a sitting New York City mayor since 1971, when John V. Lindsay switched from Republican to Democrat — immediately set off intense speculation that he will enter the 2008 presidential race as an independent.
On Monday, the mayor gave a speech at “Ceasefire! Bridging the Political Divide,” a conference intended to improve the quality of public discourse in America. In the speech, he said, “The politics of partisanship and the resulting inaction and excuses have paralyzed decision-making, primarily at the federal level, and the big issues of the day are not being addressed — leaving our future in jeopardy.”
Over the past year and a half, after his decisive re-election victory, Mr. Bloomberg has taken increasingly public stands on national issues, especially gun control, climate change and urban education, but has tended to shy away from offering his views on defense and foreign affairs.
Although the mayor has insisted again and again that he has no plans to run for president, several of his top aides — especially his chief political adviser, Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey — have made no secret of their desire to see him enter the 2008 race.
There’s little doubt but that he’s running. My guess is he’s angling for the Unity08 nomination, since there’s already an infrastructure in place.
Bloomberg has zero chance of winning the presidency this way, since it’s almost inconceivable he would carry a single state. He may well, however, have the appeal and financial wherewithal to take enough votes from one of the major party nominees to decide the election.
Whether he’ll take more from the Democrat or the Republican is an interesting question that will largely depend on who the nominees are. It’s not inconceivable that we’ll wind up with an all-NYC general election, with Rudy Giuliani facing off against Hillary Clinton, with Bloomberg in the role of spoiler. That would be interesting, indeed.
UPDATE: Some good reactions elsewhere.
Ed Morrissey finds Bloomberg’s political cross-dressing amusing: “While politicians seem to have an affinity for changing certain policy positions, it’s not often you find one that has three party affiliations in six years.”
Chris Cillizza is more practical:
Bloomberg was never a Republican in any true sense of the word. When he first ran for office in 2001, he decided to do so as a Republican because the Democratic primary was already crowded with well-known candidates. The Republican nomination was his for the taking, and he took it. Then, in the general election he used his vast personal wealth and his pitch to bring a businessman’s sensibility to the job to overcome the city’s strong Democratic leanings. Now that he has been elected to two terms, Bloomberg has no need to remain in a party that he disagrees with on any number of issues.
Or, as Gothamist‘s Jake Dobkin pithily puts it, “Bloomberg Goes From Fake to Ex-Republican.”
That’s right, as far as it goes. Generally speaking, I find it morally objectionable for a politician to run under a party banner and then abandon it once he’s been elected. That’s a bait-and-switch that amounts to fraud. In this case, though, it’s hard to make that argument. Bloomberg never presented himself as a true blue Republican and NYC has a tradition of mayoral candidates running under multiple parties simultaneously.
Daniel DiRito thinks Bloomberg’s billions could overcome the traditional barriers to third party victory.
Should Bloomberg enter the race, the outstanding question will be whether voters are willing to demonstrate the vision they so frequently say they’re seeking in their political candidates…a vision that can see past convention and break with longstanding traditions…traditions that have led us to the very place so many of us bemoan.
Ed Copeland agrees.
I’ve thought for a long time that 2008 seems to be a prime chance for a third party run with the front-loaded primary calendar which means that both parties probably will know their nominees by late February or early March, meaning that voters will be tired of hearing the same two people for nine months, no matter who the parties pick.
Still, he realizes that a Bloomberg win is mostly a fantasy.
However, the decks are still so stacked against independent candidates, it would seem unlikely Bloomberg could pull it off. Who exactly would his appeal be to? It almost depends entirely on the nominees of the other parties. If Hillary is the nominees, people who can’t bear to vote for a Republican after the 8 years of Dubyaland hell would have an option. If the Republicans pick a conservative, pro-Iraq war candidate, disaffected Republicans might cross over to vote for Bloomberg if they can’t stomach voting for a Democrat. Only one thing is certain: Bloomberg won’t be attracting disaffected religious right-wing voters, no matter who the GOP nominates.
True enough. It’s not merely habit and money that make it so hard for a third party candidate to win; it’s the very nature of our system. We allocate Electoral College votes to the at-large plurality winner in DC and 48 states, with Maine and Nebraska splitting their votes along Congressional District lines. It’s nearly impossible for someone without a built-in support base to get a majority in that setup in a three (or more) way race. And, if no candidate gets a majority in the EC, it goes to the House. Unless Bloomberg builds a genuine third party and brings a couple hundred new Representatives in with him, there’s no way he wins that.
Mark Tapscott — who is in strong running for Quote of the Day status with “changing one’s registration merely to be able to run for an office does not constitute joining a political party any more than buying a King James Bible makes you a born-again Christian” — believes Bloomberg is a poor candidate for mounting an independent bid because “a genuine insurgency can only be mounted in opposition to the conventional wisdom that more government is better. No liberal politico can credibly advocate reducing the size and power of the federal government.”
Jonathan Singer runs some numbers of the state-by-state impact Bloomberg might have, based on polling in 15 states that included his name, on a Clinton-Giuliani race. Aside from turning a within-margin-of-error Giuliani win in Missouri to a slight win for Clinton, no state is turned.