Michael Bloomberg Came Really Close To Running For President, But Decided Not To

Michael Bloomberg announced today that he's not running for President, but he came awfully close to getting into the race.

Michael-Bloomberg3

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was once again the focus of attention as a potential third-party candidate for President earlier this year, announced today that he was not running for President:

Michael R. Bloomberg, who for months quietly laid the groundwork to run for president as an independent, will not enter the 2016 campaign, he said Monday, citing his fear that a three-way race could lead to the election of a candidate who would imperil the security and stability of the United States: Donald J. Trump.

In a forceful condemnation of his fellow New Yorker, Mr. Bloomberg said Mr. Trump has run “the most divisive and demagogic presidential campaign I can remember, preying on people’s prejudices and fears.” He said he was alarmed by Mr. Trump’s threats to bar Muslim immigrants from entering the country and to initiate trade wars against China and Japan, and he was disturbed by Mr. Trump’s “feigning ignorance of David Duke,” the white supremacist leader whose support Mr. Trump initially refused to disavow.

These moves would divide us at home and compromise our moral leadership around the world,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a column published Monday afternoon on Bloomberg View, his opinion site. “The end result would be to embolden our enemies, threaten the security of our allies, and put our own men and women in uniform at greater risk.”

The decision by Mr. Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who served three terms, ends months of intensive preparation for a candidacy. Convinced that a restive electorate was crying out for nonpartisan, technocratic government, he instructed his closest aides to set up the machinery for a long-shot billion-dollar campaign that would have subjected his image to a scorching political test.

They covertly assembled network of several dozen strategists and staff members, conducted polling in 22 states, drafted a website, produced television ads and set up campaign offices in two states — Texas and North Carolina — where the process of gathering petitions to put Mr. Bloomberg’s name on the ballot would have begun in days.

Mr. Bloomberg held extensive talks with Michael G. Mullen, the retired admiral and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about forming an independent ticket. Lawyers for Mr. Bloomberg had completed the process of vetting Mr. Mullen, and all that remained was for Mr. Bloomberg to ask formally that Mr. Mullen serve as his running mate.

Plainly torn between his aspiration to serve as president and a mountain of data showing that the path for an independent campaign aimed at the political center was slim and narrowing, Mr. Bloomberg, 74, ultimately abandoned what would probably have been his last chance to run for the White House.

Had both Mr. Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont appeared headed toward victory in the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries, Mr. Bloomberg was determined to run, according to his advisers, several of whom insisted on anonymity to speak candidly about confidential discussions.

But Mr. Bloomberg balked at the prospect of a race against Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton, who has established a dominant lead over Mr. Sanders on the Democratic side. In his column, Mr. Bloomberg said he could not in good conscience enter a race that could lead to a deadlock in the Electoral College — and to the election of Mr. Trump, or perhaps Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Mr. Bloomberg’s decision brings a new measure of clarity to a presidential race that has come sharply into focus in recent weeks, and reflects both Mrs. Clinton’s tightening grip on the Democratic contest and the growing alarm among mainstream political and business leaders about Mr. Trump’s populist insurgency.

Mr. Trump is widely seen as a weak general election candidate, and surveys conducted for Mr. Bloomberg bolstered that perception. Mr. Bloomberg’s veteran pollster, Douglas E. Schoen, gauged his prospects in polls in February and March, testing Mr. Bloomberg as a candidate nationally and in 22 crucial states.

At the outset, about two-fifths of the country had no familiarity with Mr. Bloomberg, who may be best known nationally for his support of expanded gun control legislation. But Mr. Schoen’s February polling found that after voters heard mostly favorable descriptions of Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Trump and Mr. Sanders, Mr. Bloomberg collected 35 percent of the vote and a solid lead in the Electoral College.

In a race against Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, however, Mr. Bloomberg faced far tougher odds.

The most favorable result for Mr. Bloomberg would probably have been a stalemate in the Electoral College, with no candidate capable of taking the 270 votes required.

Under those conditions, the House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a majority, would choose the president.

A second poll, taken by Mr. Schoen from Feb. 28 to March 1, found that Mr. Trump was bleeding support with general election voters after a flailing debate performance and a disastrous interview in which he failed to disavow Mr. Duke’s support.

Still, the poll found Mr. Bloomberg could overtake Mr. Trump and fall short of eclipsing Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Bloomberg acknowledged that cold math in his column. “I believe I could win a number of diverse states,” he wrote, “but not enough to win the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win the presidency.”

This isn’t the first time that Bloomberg has flirted with the idea of running for the White House, of course. There was similar speculation about him entering the race a an independent in 2012 as well, speculation that made news in 2010 and again in 2011. The difference between that speculation and this time around is that it appears that Bloomberg was far closer to actually entering the race this time around, and far more serious about the idea of actually doing so than he had been in the past. The fact that he had apparently already decided on a potential running mate, for example, indicates that Bloomberg was further down the road of jumping into the race than many observers suspected, for example, and it also appear that formal planning for the campaign had gotten to the point where all Bloomberg needed to do was give the word and the campaign would have been launched. At the link, The New York Times includes copies of documents apparently prepared by political advisers hired by Bloomberg to map out an independent candidacy against both a background where the respective Republican and Democratic nominees were Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders as well as one where the nominees were Trump and Hillary Clinton. The documents indicate projections for states where Bloomberg might have been able to campaign to the most effect, as well as projections for expected outcomes, assuming of course that he would have been able to gain ballot access in those states. The planning even got to the extent of putting together a rough cut of what the initial Bloomberg For President media campaign would have looked like:

As I noted when the latest round of speculation about a Bloomberg Presidential run first made news in January, the entire logic of a Bloomberg campaign seemed baffling regardless of who the Republican and Democratic nominees ended up being. Contrary to the assertions of some political pundits, it’s never struck me that there is the kind of desire for an independent candidate that Bloomberg would have represented among the American public that would have led to such a campaign becoming a major political force. This conclusion was seemingly confirmed by polling in February that found very little interest in a Bloomberg getting into the race outside of New York City itself. Perhaps a well-executed media campaign could have changed that, but I’m skeptical. We’ve already got one nearly 70-year-old billionaire from New York in the race for President, I’m not ure that anyone was all that eager for another one. That being said, it would have been interesting to see what the campaign plan that Bloomberg’s people had laid out would have looked like and what impact it might have had on the race as a whole. It couldn’t have been any worse than what Donald Trump has done after all.

If nothing else, this is the end of Bloomberg’s flirtation with the Presidency. At the age of 74, he would have been the oldest person to run for President in modern history, and it’s unlikely he’ll try to flirt with this idea again in four years regardless of what the political landscape looks like. I’m sure the pundits who travel the Acela Corridor are crying in the bar car tonight.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. John says:

    So he is smart enough to realize that the eccentric New York billionaire niche has been filled…




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  2. MBunge says:

    So, to sum up. The candidacy of Donald Trump is…

    A. Encouraging more Latinos to become US citizens.

    B. Forcing our elites to consider the problems of the white working class.

    C. Sparing us a Presidential campaign by Michael Bloomberg.

    If we don’t let Trump move into the White House, can we at least give him a medal?

    Mike




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  3. gVOR08 says:

    OK. Bloomberg spent a lot of money exploring a bid, realized he’d lose, quit, and is spinning a noble narrative. Got it.




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  4. Modulo Myself says:

    Shorter Bloomberg Exploratory Committee:

    They’re saying Boo–urns.




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  5. Tyrell says:

    @MBunge: I wish that Mike had got in. He would have brought excitement and some new ideas.




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  6. Slugger says:

    I’m with Tyrell on this. There is a problem with our political system when someone who has the experience of being the highest elected official and chief executive of the most important city on earth is dismissed from consideration for a higher office so lightly. This is done without weighing the kind of job he did as mayor which was generally pretty good with the biggest scandal in his administration being something about soda pop.
    How well is the current system serving us? In November when I will be forced to choose between Trump and Hillary, I will be damning both the Repubs and Demos. I am going to think that the parties have created a game where they run a duopoly while I have to hold my nose to vote.
    How can we make it possible for thoughtful, temperate people with executive skills and under control ego issues to run for high office?




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  7. MBunge says:

    @Slugger: How can we make it possible for thoughtful, temperate people with executive skills and under control ego issues to run for high office?

    I don’t think the guy who got mayoral term limits changed from two terms to three because he didn’t think anyone else could possible do the job has his ego under control.

    Mike




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  8. Slugger says:

    @MBunge: Small steps, small steps. I am not a radical. However, Trump versus Clinton can not be the best that America can come up with.




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  9. grumpy realist says:

    Oh, I’m quite sure there’s no lack of people who will be very happy to tell you you’re a shoe-in to run for the Presidency, provided you pay them enough money.

    It’s the ones who you DON’T pay, those who tell you you’re out of your mind, that you should listen to.




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  10. Lit3Bolt says:

    @Slugger:

    While I also admire Bloomberg’s executive experience, the fact that the dude was willing to go this far in exploring a 0% 3rd party Presidential bid shows that he’s extremely vulnerable to flattery and yes-men.

    And then look how he turns down the entire quasi-bid process. Him NOT running for President is saving the country? Sure, Mikey. Sure. Now let’s go over here and play with your media and dollar bills, and save them too! Open wide, here comes your pills! Zoooooooooooom!!!




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  11. gVOR08 says:

    @Slugger: Bloomberg isn’t being rejected so much because of what he is as because of the situation. It’s pretty much a given that a third party run in the US can produce nothing more than a spoiler. Why he ever thought different is a mystery. Bloomberg’s right that in this case a spoiler might well throw the election into the Republican House and I can understand him not wanting to go down in history as the man who handed Trump, or maybe Ryan, the presidency.

    How can we make it possible for thoughtful, temperate people with executive skills and under control ego issues to run for high office?

    I think a good case could be made that Obama meets your description. He didn’t have much visible executive experience, but he has displayed talent and skills. He’s criticized for being too thoughtful and temperate. As to ego, yes, he thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room. But he is, so that’s pragmatism.




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  12. al-Ameda says:

    @MBunge:
    So, to sum up. The candidacy of Donald Trump is…

    A. Encouraging more Latinos to become US citizens.

    A good thing. Legal is better than illegal.

    B. Forcing our elites to consider the problems of the white working class.

    Their problem is that Republicans are generally hostile to labor (certainly to well-paid labor), and although they pay very little in federal income taxes they really do not want to pay anything at all, they want more tax cuts to pay for the government they want..

    C. Sparing us a Presidential campaign by Michael Bloomberg.

    Bloomberg would elevate the discussion from Trump’s hand-size, and bedwetting stuff, to actual policy subjects – perhaps boring, but sensible.

    If we don’t let Trump move into the White House, can we at least give him a medal?

    Good idea. I’d give him Fool’s Gold.




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  13. C. Clavin says:

    I too was considering a run for President, but decided not to.




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  14. humanoid.panda says:

    @al-Ameda:

    A good thing. Legal is better than illegal.

    Ha? One can't go from being illegal to being a citizen. To get citizenship, you need to have a green card..

    Bloomberg would elevate the discussion from Trump’s hand-size, and bedwetting stuff, to actual policy subjects – perhaps boring, but sensible.

    A Bloomberg candidacy would have accomplished 2 things, and 2 things only. One is transfer a billion dollars or so from Bloomberg to TV stations, staffing agencies and political consultants, and the other is making it much easier for Trump/Cruz being president.




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  15. Gustopher says:

    I also came really close to running for president, and decided not to.




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  16. Gustopher says:

    @C. Clavin: I was actually driven out of the campaign by fears of C. Clavin competing for the same supporters — day drinkers.




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  17. C. Clavin says:

    @Gustopher:
    You can’t drink all day if you don’t start early in the morning.
    It’s a powerful constituency…if you can get them to leave the bar long enough to vote!!!




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  18. Joe Gage says:

    Bloomberg’s a decent man but he was delusional if he really thought he had a chance. The problem with these billionaires is that nobody in their inner circle will ever tell them the truth. Yes, I’m also talking about Trump.




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  19. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin: Around here they close bars on election day. In fact one of our local bars volunteered to be a polling place, since they were closed anyway. (And they were trying to buy some good will to work around some well deserved noise complaints.)




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  20. C. Clavin says:

    @gVOR08:

    Around here they close bars on election day.

    You’d have to be drunk to vote Republican this time around.




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  21. Rafer Janders says:

    Look, there was never any chance that Bloomberg was going to run for president, and it’s not because of any high-minded thoughts that he’d split the anti-Trump vote, or throw the election to the House, or whatever.

    It’s because he didn’t want to spend the next six months as Donald Trump’s personal punching bag. It’s because he knew that a constant stream of Trumpian insults about how short and boring etc. etc. he was would turn him into a figure of fun, and he has no appetite for that kind of fight.




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  22. Kylopod says:

    Nate Silver did a little analysis suggesting that in a three-way race between Bloomberg, Clinton, and Trump, Trump would likely have prevailed with a “lopsided victory” in the electoral college:

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/bloomberg-might-have-produced-president-trump/

    Of course, this particular projection has got to be taken with a grain of salt. No one since John Q. Adams has won a presidential election with no more than 35% of the popular vote, and this model has Bloomberg getting 29%–higher than both Perot and T. Roosevelt. I just don’t see any plausible scenario in which Bloomberg could have reached those numbers. He’s not that well-known outside New York, he doesn’t have anything like a cult following, he’s more of an elite than popular favorite. And third-party contenders nearly always end up experiencing a substantial drop in their support from the time they enter the race.

    Still, I do agree that a Bloomberg candidacy would have stood a serious chance of producing a President Trump, and looking at this hypothetical map should shake any of us out of becoming too complacent.




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  23. Jack says:

    This is truly a sad day.

    His candidacy would have:
    -Pulled more votes from the Democratic nominee than the Republican nominee.
    -Pulled money away from his gun control efforts to fund his campaign.
    -Put his gun control efforts front and center, and made it easier for our side to tie Everytown to Bloomberg.
    -Tied his other unpopular nannying to his gun control efforts.
    -Reveal the extent to which the entire gun control movement is funded by one rich billionaire.

    The way I saw it, there just wasn’t any downside.




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  24. humanoid.panda says:

    @Kylopod: This “model” really emphasizes the extent to which Silver has nothing particularly interesting or insightful to say before September of presidential election year..




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  25. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Jack:

    You could’ve just typed “Bloomberg scares the sh*t out of me, because if I don’t have a gun how can I prove I’m a man?” Yet somehow you turned it into a 4 item list.

    Bravo.




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  26. C. Clavin says:

    @Jack:

    the entire gun control movement is funded by one rich billionaire.

    Gadzooks you are full of shit.
    Just the simple little donate button on the website puts the lie to your claim.
    If you have to lie to prove your point…you don’t have a point.
    In other words…you are pointless.




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  27. grumpy realist says:

    And dear ol’ salad bar Brooksie is making plans for a Garrison finish by Rubio.

    Lord, what fools these mortals be.




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  28. al-Ameda says:

    @Jack:

    -Reveal the extent to which the entire gun control movement is funded by one rich billionaire.

    Hey, I read that in the Area 51 Times too.




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  29. An Interested Party says:

    The way I saw it, there just wasn’t any downside.

    How very sad for you…




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