Palin For President, With An Assist From Mike Bloomberg?

Political columnist John Heilemann thinks he's come up with a scenario that would put Sarah Palin in the White House, but his assumptions don't add up.

In the pages of New York magazine, John Heilemann becomes the latest pundit to speculate on Sarah Palin’s intentions for 2012, and he spins a rather odd tale about how it could happen:

Assuming that Palin were the nominee, just how much further would Obama have to slip for that to happen? Not long ago, I asked a person close to Bloomberg, who said that if the president’s approval rating fell into the thirties, diving in might be irresistible to the mayor. But what if it was at, say, 42 percent—four points below its current level, according to the Gallup tracking poll? “Forty-two?” this person pondered, and then smiled impishly. “That might get him in there, too.”

What would then transpire? To get Rumsfeldian for a sec, the combination of known unknowns and unknown unknowns is enough to make your head spin. But there are also a handful of known knowns: that Bloomberg’s team, probably led by Sheekey and Wolfson, would be as tough, savvy, and technologically sophisticated as any ever assembled; that the mayor, regardless of being on the ballot in 50 states, would target more like half of them where his prospects were brightest; and that he would spend more than $1 billion and maybe upward of $3 billion.

One scenario, most likely if the economy suffers a double-dip recession, is that the nation would be so desperate for capable economic management that Bloomberg would be able to overcome his vulnerabilities—his short-Jewish-unmarried-plutocratness—and find himself deposited in the Oval Office.

Another scenario, the likeliest, is that Bloomberg’s entry would secure the reelection of Obama. “There’s enough solid Republicans that even Palin gets between 26 and 30 percent of the vote,” forecasts Dowd. “And there’s enough solid Democrats that, depending on the economy, Obama gets 40 to 42 percent. That leaves Bloomberg with between 28 and 34 percent, which just isn’t enough.”

But there is a third scenario, one that involves a more granular kind of analysis-cum-speculation. By the accounts of strategists in both parties, Bloomberg—especially with the help of his billions—would stand a reasonable chance of carrying New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, and California. Combine that with a strong-enough showing in a few other places in the industrial Northeast to deny Obama those states, and with Palin holding the fire-engine-red states of the South, and the president might find himself short of the 270 electoral votes necessary to win.

Assuming you still remember the basics from American Government 101, you know what would happen next: The election would be thrown to the House of Representatives—which, after November 2, is likely to be controlled by the Republicans. The result: Hello, President Palin!

Heilemann leaves out a crucial point about the House of Representatives, of course. Under the 12th Amendment, each state gets a single vote which would mean, presumably, that the members of each delegation would have to agree who their states’ vote would go to. In states where the delegation is controlled by the same party that won the state’s Electoral Vote, this would be an easy issue. However, there would be real pressure on a Democratic delegation from a state that voted Republican for President to adhere to the voters wishes. Then there are states that are equally divided between the parties. Presumably, they would be unable to cast a vote at all.

Before we even get to that point, though, there’s the matter of this hypothetical third-party candidacy by New York Mayor Michael Blooomberg. For some reason, this is an idea that’s been getting a lot of circulation among political pundits lately. Heilemann suggests, for example, that the bizarre Op-Ed that Thomas Friedman recently wrote about a “real tea party,” which James Joyner wrote about here a few weeks ago, was some kind of sub rosa effort by Bloomberg supporters to test the waters for a 2012 run.

Personally, I don’t get the Bloomberg hype. Unlike a Ross Perot, there’s no evidence of any kind of populist yearning for a short billionaire from New York. Moreover, I’m not sure that most Americans know who Bloomberg even is. He’s certainly less well-known than predecessors like Giuliani and Koch were during their times in office, and neither one of them would’ve made a good President.  Heilemann speculates that Bloomberg would somehow prove popular enough in the Tri-State area, Florida, and California to cost Obama those state’s Electoral Votes, or even to win them outright. The only place I see any yearning for a Bloomberg candidacy, though, is in the New York-Washington corridor among the punditocracy, for whom the idea of an all-knowing East Coast Technocrat in the White House seems to be very appealing. Or maybe it’s just that they idea appeals to them because it would give them something interesting to write about.

But while the idea of a Bloomberg for President campaign may excite the crowd that rides the Acela, I don’t see it playing anywhere outside the chattering classes, and without a viable third-party candidate siphoning votes away from Obama, there’s no way Palin becomes President.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. john personna says:

    We better legalize pot so I can be ready for this.

  2. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    What’s the matter John? Unprepared for a little reality? By the time the 2012 election gets here, you could beat Obama.

  3. John,

    I think you have to be smoking something to believe this could actually happen.

    Don’t get me wrong, the political junkie in me would love to see a Presidential election thrown into the House. it would be so much of a political disaster, though, that I hope it never happens

  4. James Joyner says:

    I saw reference to this piece earlier but you’ve thankfully saved me the trouble of suffering through it.

    First, the notion that Bloomberg would carry a single state in a three-way race strikes me as extraordinarily dubious. Presumably, he’d take away some number of votes from Republicans who might otherwise vote for Palin and some larger number of votes from Democrats who would vote for Obama with Palin as the only alternative. But I can’t think of a single state where he’d capture a plurality. I mean, seriously, Bloomberg wins Florida? Maybe he wins New York, but I rather doubt it; it’s a hard core Blue State.

    Second, to the extent that Bloomberg cost Obama several states by siphoning away votes, it would seem that Palin, not Bloomberg, would the the most likely plurality winner of said states.

  5. john personna says:

    Well to answer you both, I’m not smokin’ anything yet, but .I’m worried by that old line …

    “You Will Never Go Broke Underestimating the Intelligence of the American Public” – PT Barnum Or (HL Mencken)

  6. Smooth Jazz says:

    “and without a viable third-party candidate siphoning votes away from Obama, there’s no way Palin becomes President.”

    You may have a bias against Gov Palin and against Repub female candidates based on the smugness and condescending manner in which you attack these folks, but you are no fortune teller. Neither you or I can can predict the future, and can say for sure who our next President will be.

    Remember there will no “Katie Couric” trap this time – ie a biased journalist who out to trap the former Alaska Gov. The “Journalisters” have all been revealed, and she knows her place this time. Time will tell whether she has acquired the polish to get over the hump. One thing is for sure: The doesn’t need the support of coastal elites to get there.

  7. PD Shaw says:

    “Assuming that Palin were the nominee . . .”

    Isn’t this like explaining how [insert team] will win March Madness by first asssuming they reach the final round?

  8. john personna says:

    “Remember there will no ‘Katie Couric’ trap this time ”

    Oh God, can you imagine it? Someone elected President without once being asked a hard question … a campaign run entirely on Fox.

  9. PD,

    Yes but without that assumption the rest of the scenario would be pointless.

    And as I’ve written here before, the idea of Sarah Palin winning the GOP nomination in 2012 is not at all far-fetched. The General Election, of course, is another question entirely

  10. wr says:

    Not to mention the fact that Bloomberg only won reelection in NYC by a 51-46 margin, despite his overwhelming financial advantage and the fact that the entire press corps seemed to sit out the election, having decided early on that Bloomberg was invincible and thus barely bothering to cover his opponent.

    Bloomberg has one specific constituency — middle-aged pundits and columnists who find it embarassing that the people have actual opinions about issues, and would prefer an all-powerful technocrat to wave his bi-partisan wand and fix alll our booboos.

    So expect to see more ridiculous columns like this. I’m sure Friedman’s working on another one right now.

  11. steve says:

    “Remember there will no “Katie Couric” trap this time”

    Oh yes, that most difficult of questions. “What do you read?”


  12. An Interested Party says:

    “Remember there will no ‘Katie Couric’ trap this time…”

    Asking someone what newspapers she reads is now considered a “trap”? I knew the bar had been set low, but really? Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations…

  13. ponce says:

    “Yes but without that assumption the rest of the scenario would be pointless.”

    Better assumptions:

    The Chinese offer to forgive $1 trillion worth of U.S. debt if we appoint Palin ruler for life.

    Jesus returns and anoints Palin as “Rapture President.”

    Constitutional Amendment passes: The presidency will be decided by reality TV contest, Palin wins it with the Fire Dance Bristol teaches her.

  14. sam says:

    “he would spend more than $1 billion and maybe upward of $3 billion.”

    And boast that his log cabin only has 27 rooms.

  15. LaurenceB says:

    There are a few Bloomberg fans around. Me, for example. Right now I’d choose Bloomberg over any of the current Republican candidates being discussed (Mitch Daniels might be an exception) and I’d also take Bloomberg over Obama – whom I voted for last time. So, I guess in my case he would siphon off the Democratic vote.

  16. Smooth Jazz says:

    “Oh yes, that most difficult of questions. “What do you read?”

    Please spare me. Couric clearly wasn’t interested in the former Alaska Gov reading habits, or her record as Governor of Alaska. The haughty, sneering manner in which Couric asked the question suggested she thought Gov Palin was from another world (ie a hick from that far away state up North) and was chomping at the bit to make the Gov look bad. Why else would She & CBS broadcast the 2 hours where Gov Palin looked bad, and leave out the other countless hours of the interview where the Gov might have looked better.

    Let’s not kid herself: Couric is a Northeast elite Liberal that was doing her part for Obama. She had a mission in Oct 2008 and she accomplished it. To suggest Gov Palin, a Liberal arts major in College who has broadcast experience when she was younger, doesn’t read a newspaper is par for the course for a Northeast Liberal hack like Couric. I suspect the former Alaska Gov will not be blindsided by these “journolister” types again.

  17. sam says:

    “The haughty, sneering manner in which Couric asked the question”


  18. Pug says:

    To suggest Gov Palin, a Liberal arts major in College who has broadcast experience when she was younger, doesn’t read a newspaper is par for the course for a Northeast Liberal hack like Couric.

    Couric “suggested” nothing. She asked a simple question, “What newspapers do you read?” Palin couldn’t answer with anything other than a lame, “All of them”.

    Was Charley Gibson’s question about the Bush Doctrine also a trap? The Bush Doctrine is a pretty important concept for someone running for Vice-President of the United States to know. Palin didn’t have a clue. Not a clue in the world.

    Do you guys have anything to offer except resentment and an inferiority complex?

  19. john personna says:

    Step back Smooth Jazz and think about the job of President of the United States.

    As much as you like Sarah Palin, do you think that we should choose a President stumped by anything? Katie Couric is a friggin’ newsreader. Any President should be able to eat her for breakfast. I don’t care if that President read papers or not.

    As I say, the thing that really worries me about your response is that it shows how a Fox-only, slow pitch, campaign could actually work.

    And ye gods, when an actual problem came up who would the President call for help?

  20. steve says:

    “Please spare me. Couric clearly wasn’t interested in the former Alaska Gov reading habits, or her record as Governor of Alaska”

    I would be. I expected her to reply with something like “The Wall Street Journal, The National Review, The Weekly Standard and Foreign Policy or The National Interest.” Pretty safe picks. Pretty much what you would expect for a right of center governor. Frankly, I cannot imagine a bigger softball question.


  21. mpw280 says:

    Yeah personna, we are suffering through him now, he wasn’t asked a single hard question by the likes of leg humpin mattews or any of the in the bag democrat journalists. mpw

  22. Smooth Jazz says:

    “As I say, the thing that really worries me about your response is that it shows how a Fox-only, slow pitch, campaign could actually work.”

    Blah Blah Blah. Everything is Fox, Fox, Fox. Did it occur to all you Libs what Obama read, or what his backgound was, beyond 2 years as a part time senator and 6 years as a very Liberal State legislator, before he became a President in way over his.

    You all have a lot to say about Gov Palin – But very little to say about how unqualified Obama was before he become President. I know, I know – he went to Harvard and read all the elite newspapers like the New York Times. Too bad he is in WAY over his head. And you all have the audacity to jump on Gov Palin.

    Stop and think about where the Country is under Obama, and spare me your lectures.

  23. wr says:

    Well, to be fair, the subject was Palin, not Obama. That’s why the Couric interview was mentioned.

    Although also to be fair, when someone has served as president of the Harvard Law Review, I don’t really worry about how well read he is. Whatever his problems may turn out to be, a lack of intellectural curiousity is just not going to be one of them. And in fact, even you acknowledge that, after dropping some ludicrous whine about how no one asked him what he read.

    As for the Palin/Couric interview, I believe your impression of it is all wrong. Palin was the subject of huge national curiousity, and for Couric the interview was an enormous “get.” She was bending over backwards to allow Palin to introduce herself in her own words, even lobbing what may be the softest softball in history: Which papers do you read?

    But let’s say you’re right and this was a gotcha. Then why in God’s name would Palin fall for it? She has absurdly tried to claim she was so furious at the condescension in the question she couldn’t be bothered to answer. If she’s telling the truth, then she’s demonstrating she simply doesn’t have the toughness it takes to be president. You think the leader of the United States can slink off in a sulk whenever someone isn’t nice to her?

    And if she’s anything but a spoiled child, she’d know that a gotcha question would give her the opportunity to use it to her own advantage. She could have listed papers she reads, or she could have turned the question back on Couric — “I guess you think up in Alaska we’re just hicks, but let me tell you…”

    Instead, she froze. Couldn’t handle Kate Couric.

    She’s a lightweight. And all the whining her fans do can’t change that.

  24. Smooth Jazz says:

    “Instead, she froze. Couldn’t handle Kate Couric. She’s a lightweight. And all the whining her fans do can’t change that.”

    Yeah, Just like Obama froze when he named that 57th state. And all that “Whining” you hear are all those people who were taken in by a lightweight who was a part time Senator for 2 years, thinking he could “heal the planet”. If Gov Palin is a lightwieght, Obama is a “featherweight” who should have stayed in the Senate longer to get more experience.

    No wonder all you Libs are so obsessed with the former Alaska Gov – Obama has been an unmitigated disaster, and no Dem candidate in any tight election wants him anywhere around. How this lighweight became President will be a lesson for the ages. One thing is for sure: Gov Palin as President surely couldn’t be more incompetent than Obama.

  25. John Personna says:

    If I recall correctly, Obama went on Fox and handled their questions. He didn’t hide out on MS-NBC or whatever.

    That’s my point about Fox. They are what they are but when candidates start hiding out there it raises it to a whole other level.

  26. sam says:

    “No wonder all you Libs are so obsessed with the former Alaska 1/2 Gov ” Fixed.

    And BTW, I’m hoping, more than you can imagine, that Caribou Barbie is nominated by, what will be post-2012-election, the late, great Republican Party.

  27. wr says:

    There you go, Smooth Jazz. Just like every other Palin supporter — and actually like la Palin herself — you can never answer a single substantive point about the candidate you support. All you can do is attack Obama and those who voted for him.

    Personally I loathed George W. Bush, and continue to think he is the worst president in our history. But that never led me to argue that Paris Hilton should be president, simply because Bush was bad.

    And that’s the substance of your argument for Palin. Oh, and that Katie Couric was mean to her. Yeah, I want her to lead this country because some newsreader wasn’t nice. That’ll make her feel better.

    (By the way, I’ve never bothered to waste my time with this, but I’m putting off getting back to a book proposal, so here we go — I mean, in case you actually don’t really know, instead of just looking for cheap shots courtesy of Redstate or whoever:

    Obama said he’d visited 57 states and only had three more to go before he’d visited the entire country. It’s absolutely clear to anyone with a brain — and without a desperate need for some feeble excuse to attack — that this was nothing more than a slip of the tongue, fifty instead of forty. It’s the kind of silly thing everyone says, especially when they’ve been talking almost nonstop for months. That this is the substance of your assault on the president just shows how shallow and silly your grasp of the world is. Which might explain why you like Palin so much.) Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to sell…

  28. Pug says:

    Next we’ll get the dijon mustard attack. Now there’s something of substance.

    Sean Hannity used it night after night. Kind of left me wondering: Sean Hannity has never had dijon mustard? What a dork.

  29. matt says:

    Yes Obama went on Fox which pissed off his liberal supporters who desperately wanted Obama to boycott FOX….

  30. anjin-san says:

    So lets see Jazz… you have already admitted that Palin fled her sword duty in Alaska in the face of a few “ankle biters”. Now, according to you, Katie Couric, a legendary softball artist, ate her for breakfast.

    How is this woman, who, by your own admission, crumbles in the face of lightweights, supposed to deal with terrorists? WIth Putin? With anything other than a Fox News love fest?

  31. anjin-san says:

    > Stop and think about where the Country is under Obama

    I just did. When he took office, Republican leadership had us on the brink of an honest to goodness depression. Now we have a stable economy and prospects for the future other than bread lines.