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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. G.A. Phillips says:

    He was Just another donkey in rino’s clothing.

  2. ken says:

    More people are members of the Democratic Party today than the Republican.

    America is basically a liberal country. Our best values are liberal values.

    Bloomberg is a liberal and would do well if he came back to the center and ran as a Democrat. Claiming an independent status makes him look unsure of who he really wants to serve. When it comes down to it only a tiny fraction of people ever vote for an Independent or a third party candidate in any national election.

    I would be surprised if he does not know this. My thinking is that he may run a spoiler campaign to ensure a democratic victory in the next election. He is wealthy enough and has spent hundreds of millions of his own money just to win the mayor-ship of a New York City. I doubt if he ever recovered that money as mayor. So he is not in it for the money.

    Like Ross Perot and Ralph Nader before he may garner enough votes as an independent to help influence the outcome of the election.

  3. carpeicthus says:

    I’d prefer him to Hillary. I wish we had a system that gave him a chance in Hell of winning. He’d really hurt Giuliani, I imagine. What kind of credibility would Giuiani have as the second-most-competent NYC mayor in the race?

  4. Anderson says:

    No liberal politico can credibly advocate reducing the size and power of the federal government

    So, “power” doesn’t include “putting people in jail for years without a hearing,” or “torturing people,” or “ignoring the law,” or “forbidding women to have abortions,” or ….

    Does “power” to conservatives really mean anything more than “spending money”? And then they wonder why they’re stereotyped as heartless and greedy?

  5. Triumph says:

    Bloomberg Switches Parties Again, Setting up Independent White House Bid

    This headline is misleading–Bloomberg didn’t “switch” parties. He went from being a party member to being non-partisan.

    Bloomberg never presented himself as a true blue Republican

    This is simply untrue. Bloomberg was a big supporter of the party and Bush. In his speech to the party delegates at the 2004 convention: “The president deserves our support. We are here to support him, and I am here to support him.”

    At the Lincoln Day dinner on Staten Island in 2003: “We are going to get George W. Bush re-elected as president of the United States. We are going to carry New York city and state. Everybody thinks I’m crazy, but I think we can do it.”

    To be an elected Republican officeholder, and vocal supporter of a conservative Republican president certainly makes someone a “true blue Republican.”

  6. G.A. Phillips says:

    “Our best values are liberal values.” thanks Ken, when I said I missed you and needed a good laugh I never thought you would come through like this, Haha, dang your a good friend, that was brilliantly hysterical!

  7. M1EK says:

    I’m just grateful no right-winger has trotted out the lie that Perot cost Bush I the election yet.

  8. Brian J. says:

    It would certainly prove a good test case for exactly how far money actually influences the electorate. If a billionaire with no base blows a billion of his own money and loses, shouldn’t that identify how money in politics is reflective more than determinative of support?

  9. Anderson says:

    While we’re on NYC mayors, what about Giuliani’s blowing off the Iraq Study Group? That seems to fall squarely within OTB territory.

  10. Triumph says:

    That seems to fall squarely within OTB territory.

    The problem with Giuliani blowing off the ISG is that it exposes the fiction of him as Mr. “Strong on Terror.” It is difficult for purveyors of conventional wisdom to reconcile reality with their predispositions.

    My guess is that if James covers this it will be to discount it as inconsequential or he will more likely buy the Giuliani campaign spin that the holy Rudy didn’t want to “politicize” the proceedings–even though he had already publicly declared his interest in running for President months before he was asked to join the ISG.

  11. Matthew J. Stinson says:

    I agree it’d be more accurate to say “Bloomberg changes party registration again” instead of “switches parties.”

    The most amusing thing about the Bloomberg switch may be Andrew Sullivan’s reaction to it since he’s laboring under the false impression that Bloomberg was actually a Republican in principle rather than a Republican for convenience.

    P.S. I like the new comment preview template.

  12. Beldar says:

    Money talks, of course, and he has it. He’s spent it in the past, in his mayoral campaigns. But those weren’t ridiculously improbable, and a presidential campaign would be.

    Perot was not only rich but genuinely nuts. I don’t have any reason to think Bloomberg is nuts. I don’t think he’ll run, but he will enjoy people talking about whether he might.

    I can’t tell whether the mainstream media folks from NYC and LA who are talking about this as a serious proposition are really serious, or just pretending to be serious. Either way, it’s still mildly amusing to watch them being so ridiculous.