Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg confirmed yesterday that he is considering entering the 2016 presidential race as a third-party candidate.
This confirms rumors sparked last month after it was revealed Mr. Bloomberg had retained a political consultant and conducted preliminary polls to determine his electability.
The New York billionaire says he wants to raise the standard of political dialogue and champion political moderates.
“I find the level of discourse and discussion distressingly banal ... an outrage and an insult to the voters,” he told the Financial Times.
While critics shake their heads at the idea of a second New York billionaire in this year’s already crowded race, Bloomberg is very different from Donald Trump. Instead of attempting to appeal to GOP faithful, the former New York mayor is socially liberal enough to appeal to moderate Democrats.
Who would benefit from a Bloomberg candidacy?
Well, his fellow businessmen, for one. Monied interests have expressed relief that they may have a more moderate representative than the bombastic Donald Trump. Several of Bloomberg’s colleagues and friends, including Bill Ackerman and Rupert Murdoch, have spoken publicly about his potential candidacy.
Some conservative officials have also speculated that a Bloomberg candidacy could be more damaging for the Democratic party than the Republican, citing similarities between Bloomberg’s policies and some of Hillary Clinton’s positions.
Although Bloomberg, like Mr. Trump, has flip-flopped between the Democratic and Republican parties, many of his personal stances, such as more stringent gun laws and fewer restrictions on abortion, are more liberal than conservative.
For this reason, New Hampshire Republican party chairwoman Jennifer Horn stated that a Bloomberg candidacy would be more likely to split the Democratic vote than hurt the Republican nominee.
“Michael Bloomberg’s background, his stands on the issues, where he is on individual liberties and the rights of Americans – whether it’s gun control or big taxation or anything else,” said Ms. Horn, “I think he’s much in line with the Democratic Party and it’s those voters that would be looking at him as a potential alternative.”
Several Republicans have expressed interest in competing against Bloomberg, including Senator Ted Cruz and fellow businessman Trump, perhaps for the reasons Horn cited.
On the other hand, some more liberal voters feel that Bloomberg’s Wall Street ties are distasteful. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders condemned billionaire campaigns in general.
“I don’t care for him. There’s not much difference between him and Hillary,” independent voter Christopher Anderson told the Financial Times, “they’re all in bed with Wall Street and big corporations.”
Though it may cost him votes, Bloomberg’s wealth has its advantages. The former New York mayor may be willing to fund his campaign out of his own pockets. He could spend more than $1 billion dollars on a bid for the White House.
In 2013, Bloomberg told New York Magazine that, “I am 100 percent convinced that you cannot in this country win an election unless you are the nominee of one of the two major parties.”
Bloomberg has stated that he will not run unless he thinks he can win – hence the polling to determine his electability. If the primaries indicate that this will be a Trump vs. Sanders race, Bloomberg just may decide to run.
Third-party candidates are rare, and for good reason. It is difficult to win an election in a two party system without the backing of an organization like the Democratic or Republican parties. The electoral college, which awards state electors to candidates on a (generally) winner take all basis, can also prevent even popular third-party candidates from defeating those backed by a party machine.
Only a handful of third-party bids have met any kind of success. Even deeply popular Theodore Roosevelt was only able to capture 27.4 percent of the popular vote and six states when he ran under the banner of his self-created Bull Moose party in 1912. In 1992, Ross Perot carried almost 19 percent of the popular vote and no states.
Despite the historical failure of third-party candidates, yesterday’s announcement means that Bloomberg thinks he may have a chance.
Whatever his chances, Bloomberg must make a decision by April. Bloomberg himself has promised a decision by March.