Speculation Continues That Bloomberg Might Run in 2008

The Wall Street Journal keeps alive speculation that Michael Bloomberg might still run for president as a third party candidate. They report that is advisers are planning for different scenarios:

One scenario — and the one aides are hoping for — would be a race between fellow New Yorkers Hillary Clinton and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Sen. Clinton’s negative rating is the highest in either party, while Mr. Giuliani’s is the highest among Republicans. That match-up could make what supporters see as Mr. Bloomberg’s “above the fray” image more appealing. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Giuliani are also seen as moderate on social issues, which could mute opposition to Mr. Bloomberg from the religious right. “If the parties nominate polarizing candidates…then there’s plenty of room” for Mr. Bloomberg, independent pollster John Zogby said.

Another scenario that would provide an opening would be if both parties nominate candidates from outside the center — John Edwards on the Democratic side, for example, or Republican Mike Huckabee, who leads polls in Iowa and is surging in national surveys. In such a case, Mr. Bloomberg would seek to appeal to moderates. “The terrain that he would look to run on is dead center of the highway,” said William Cunningham, Mr. Bloomberg’s first-term communications director.

Bloomberg’s best chance to actually win the election would be if John Edwards clinches the nomination early, following a win in Iowa, before Democrats really take a close look at him. In such a three way race, the Republicans would take the south and much of the west, Bloomberg would take the northeast, and the  midwest would be the remaining battleground. Bloomberg would be a long shot as a third party candidate, but he would have an excellent chance of moving into second place by next fall. In that case the dynamic could change to a race between Bloomberg and the Republican candidate with even those Democrats who would vote for Edwards switching to Bloomberg to prevent a Republican victory.

If Bloomberg has any shot of winning his greatest asset after his wealth is that he is largely a blank slate for most of the country.  As a former Democrat who was elected as a moderate Republican he could base his campaign to go after the votes of both independents and the votes of which ever party has the weaker candidate. Bloomberg could also benefit from buyer’s remorse as well as any bad news or gaffes during 2008.

With neither party offering a very good choice a well financed third party campaign could capitalize on the anti-establishment mood:

Partisan battles in Congress have already created an “anti-institutional mood” that could provide an opening for an independent candidate, Mr. Zogby said. Those urging Mr. Bloomberg to run draw comparisons to 1992, when an unsettled economy and battles between a Republican president and a Democratic Congress helped billionaire Ross Perot win 19% of the vote. Hamilton Jordan, who briefly ran Mr. Perot’s campaign and has met with Bloomberg strategist Mr. Sheekey, noted that the Texas technology entrepreneur drew nearly 20 million votes despite a disjointed campaign.

Mr. Bloomberg has also shown a greater willingness to spend his own money. Mr. Perot spent an estimated $65 million nationally in 1992 compared to the $74 million Mr. Bloomberg spent to get elected mayor in 2001 and the $84 million he spent on his re-election four years later. Mr. Sheekey has floated the notion of a “billion-dollar campaign,” and insiders said he has dedicated much of Mr. Bloomberg’s second term to figuring out how to use that money. Mr. Sheekey’s first challenge would be getting Mr. Bloomberg on the ballot in as many states as possible.

Mr. Sheekey, who ran both of Mr. Bloomberg’s mayoral campaigns, has met with Unity08, a group promoting an independent or bipartisan presidential campaign, and has his own ballot-access team ready to get to work as soon as Mr. Bloomberg decides to run. Mr. Bloomberg’s billions would also be instrumental in spreading his name and message.

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