Speaking to the Financial Times, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has said for the first time that he is indeed considering running for the U.S. presidency, “a move that would dramatically reshape the 2016 race for the White House,” according to the FT.
Mr Bloomberg told the FT that he would need to start putting his name on ballots across the US at the beginning of March. “I’m listening to what candidates are saying and what the primary voters appear to be doing,” he said.
While agreeing with experts who believe that an independent candidate would “struggle in a system that is is heavily skewed to favour candidates from the two main parties,” the FT adds, “the 2016 race has already proved the danger of accepting conventional wisdom.”
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In an opinion piece replete with supporting statistics and poll results, Douglas E. Schoen at the Wall Street Journal explains how “as this politically frenetic February wears on, the primary process will demonstrate to voters how divided and dysfunctional the nation has become” and furthermore how, for Americans in the middle, “a Mike Bloomberg candidacy will become more compelling by the day.”
First, a couple of caveats:
• Mr. Schoen served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton and has advised Michael Bloomberg since 2001.
• This author believes that a timely, opportune and appropriately managed Bloomberg entry — not necessarily as an Independent — into the Democratic presidential elections campaign will bring much-needed depth, breadth and choice to Democrats.
Schoen tells us that while the pundits claim that so many voters are angry and polarized, in reality they overlook the “mass of Americans in the middle,” that is “the new silent majority: the millions of Americans who don’t participate in Democratic or Republican primaries. They are equally as fed up with the status quo, but they have a different approach to problem-solving and different policy prescriptions than those on the ideological extremes.”
Schoen claims that the Iowa caucuses results indicate that the bulk of Iowa voters were distinctively liberal or conservative. That on the Republican side, “Half of the GOP caucusgoers supported either Ted Cruz, the most dogmatic conservative, or Donald Trump, the bombastic populist” and on the Democratic side, “Bernie Sanders is leading a lurch toward socialism, and Hillary Clinton is seeking to match if not exceed his leftist agenda.”
Schoen then asks, “Who is appealing to the center?” and lists statistics and polls pointing out that 43%of voters identified as independents last year and that, “60% of Americans told Gallup in September that the Republicans and Democrats ‘do such a poor job’ representing them that they want to see a third major party emerge…up from 40% when the question was first asked in 2003.”
The answer as to who would fit the bill of appealing to this center, Schoen says is…
Michael Bloomberg, a centrist with a clear (and arguably unique) record in business as an entrepreneur and in politics as a three-term mayor of New York. Mr. Bloomberg is a fiscally prudent conciliator who advances pro-growth policies and takes tough stands. He supports comprehensive immigration reform to strengthen the American economy, environmental protections to protect our planet for the next generation, and social policies to promote inclusiveness, public health and community safety. In short, his agenda is very different from what is being offered by Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio or Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
“As America becomes more polarized, the desire grows for a candidate in the center focused on building consensus and getting results,” Schoen adds and he has the numbers to prove it:
Shortly after the 2014 election a poll by this newspaper and NBC News showed that 63% of Americans favored compromise, not confrontation, to achieve policy goals. A majority, 52%, wanted the government to do more problem-solving. These attitudes suggest a constituency for a candidate who eschews partisanship and produces results.
“That’s exactly what Mr. Bloomberg did in New York, and what he has advocated for 10 years in speeches on reforming the political system and fixing Washington,” Schoen adds.
Schoen points to a January poll by Frank Luntz that found that 84% of voters could support a generic candidate with Bloomberg’s profile. “When asked about the former mayor by name, 55% said they would consider supporting him. That includes 57% of Democrats, 45% of Republicans, and 62% of swing voters,” Schoen adds.
The same poll puts Bloomberg at “28%, and the election almost within the margin of error,” in three-way races against Clinton and Cruz, or Clinton and Rubio.
The fact that, according to the Luntz survey, 35% of the voters either have no opinion about Bloomberg or have never heard of him, “gives him huge potential for growth among voters who are disappointed and dissatisfied with the two major parties,” Schoen says.
But how about the two previous unsuccessful, from-the-center presidential candidacies — Ross Perot and John Anderson? “[T]their candidacies were sunk by poor temperament, meager resources or an inability to get on the ballot,” Schoen says and adds, “Mr. Bloomberg would have none of those problems.”
To those who “mistakenly” characterize Bloomberg’s mayoral tenure “as exclusively focused on a relatively limited (but widely known) social and public health agenda, including laws to prevent gun violence and discourage smoking,” Schoen argues, “They’re missing the bigger picture. Over more than a decade in office Mr. Bloomberg governed with (and articulated) sensible alternatives on reforming taxes and government services, as well as revitalizing the economy.” Schoen points out how Bloomberg “kept New York safe from a terrorist attack for 12 years and stood firm with law enforcement to reduce crime by 32% and make it the safest big city in the nation.”
A Bloomberg candidacy would make no effort to kowtow to the religious right or labor unions. Mr. Bloomberg would not and has never made deals with special interests. Because he has always been able to finance his campaigns himself, his independence is indisputable.
Some food for thought…
Lead photo: shutterstock.com
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.