Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bloomberg Still a Possibility?

According to the Wall Street Journal, NYC Mayor Bloomberg remains a strong possibility to enter the Presidential race as a third party candidate.

Bloomberg's aides are apparently hoping for a Giuliani/Clinton matchup, since those two have the highest negatives amongst voters of all current candidates. Meanwhile the Journal points out that an Edwards/Huckabee matchup would also be favorable to Bloomberg.

While some would be surprised that a Giuliani/Clinton matchup would be Bloomberg's best shot (since that race would pit three NYC-based politicians with relatively moderate positions), I think Bloomberg's aides are correct in their assessment.

Indeed, I actually think he'd win the state of NY in such a race. First, Giuliani has lost a good amount of his luster with New Yorkers in recent years, thanks to the scandals arising out of his tenure, as well as his success in alienating just about anyone he has ever disagreed with. Second, Bloomberg's lack of a Congressional voting record will enable him to position himself to the left of Hillary on foreign relations and on the environment. Third, although Hillary enjoys high job approval ratings in the state of NY, Bloomberg's approval ratings within NYC are also sky high. I also suspect that his approval ratings in the NY suburbs (including the NJ and CT suburbs) are as high or higher (and if you don't think he'd clean house on Long Island, well, then you've never been to Long Island).

Nationally, despite being ideologically close to both Hillary and Giuliani, Bloomberg would have the ability to portray himself as the change candidate. His ability to stand to the left of Hillary on international relations would also allow him to separate himself a little bit. Then of course there is the fact that he is largely above the fray when it comes to rhetoric, which will allow him to look like an adult surrounded by children at debates. And then there is the fact that you can easily see him using something akin to the following two pitch lines:

"I've been a Republican and a Democrat in my life, and got fed up with both; now I'm running to show that Americans have a real third choice."


"My campaign is almost entirely self-financed- I don't need the help of the special interests to get elected, which means I won't owe them any favors when I am elected."

And while Bloomberg is far from a libertarian, he'd have a tremendous amount of appeal to libertarians as a "lesser of three evils choice." The reason I say this is his willingness to implement real, market-based reforms into the internal structure of government (though obviously much less so in terms of government's restrictions on private business. In essence, he has shown a real willingness to stand up to unions, cut bureaucracy (albeit through a very gradual process), and cut out government waste in general. Generally speaking, the concept of "crony capitalism" is anathema to Bloomberg. The reforms he tends to push for are often extremely creative, and in some cases controversial, but they are also reforms that are not so drastic as to be politically untenable.

I would also expect that a Bloomberg candidacy would do extremely well in California and the Pacific Northwest, where I assume he'd have the support of both the Governator and Silicon Valley, as well as most environmental groups. And his unreserved support of immigrants would I think give him a big win amongst Latinos.

All that combined would lead me to think he'd potentially win in most of the relatively wealthy, socially liberal areas of the country, meaning NJ, Connecticut, most of California, Oregon, Washington, Manhattan and Long Island, South Florida, the Philly suburbs, and Nevada. I'd also suspect he'd do quite well in Minnesota, Vermont, and New Hampshire, with their history of electing independent-minded politicians. If he managed to win all those states (no guarantee, especially since some of the places I named are only portions of states), he'd be at 196 Electoral Votes, which would be a little more than a third of the total number of electoral votes.

But, there's more. Any scenario where the main choices were Bloomberg, Clinton, and Giuliani would provide a tremendous incentive for a well-funded religious conservative campaign, even more so than a simple Giuliani/Clinton race. The reason for this is very simple: heads-up, religous conservatives may be willing to cover their eyes and pull the lever for Giuliani, or at least not get in Giuliani's way, on the grounds that a well-funded third party campaign from the right would guarantee a Hillary victory. However, with Bloomberg in the race, the math would change substantially- as you can see above, most of Bloomberg's natural support would come from "Blue" States, thus weakening Hillary substantially in the process. Importantly, a religious conservative campaign would be a fourth major candidate, so the marginal benefit to Hillary of such a campaign would be greatly reduced. As a result, a religious conservative campaign could rationalize that it would not be guaranteeing a Hillary victory, and might even have a shot at stealing a number of states, with the non-evangelical vote split up three other ways.

Naturally, such a campaign would have virtually no appeal outside the Bible Belt. But within the Bible Belt, it would have a massive effect on the race, possibly winning some states, possibly swinging other states to Hillary. And in Texas, you'd have a legitimate four way race for that state's 34 electoral votes: Hillary would take the African-American vote as well as some of the Latino vote; Bloomberg would win the biggest chunk of the Latino vote (over 1/3 of the state's population), as well as most of the youth vote; the religious conservative would take most of the state's large evangelical population; and Giuliani would take a good chunk of Bush's other die-hard supporters in Bush's home state.

As I said a few weeks ago: "Strap on your seat belts, folks. This one could get bumpy."

More reactions at memeorandum.