New York Times Provides Further Information on Potential Independent Campaign

The New York Times reports further on the Michael Bloomberg’s possible bid to run for president. They report that a decision won’t be made until February but a bipartisan group is “positioning themselves so that if the mayor declares his candidacy, a turnkey campaign infrastructure will virtually be in place.” The Times reports:

On Sunday, the mayor will join Democratic and Republican elder statesmen at the University of Oklahoma in what the conveners are billing as an effort to pressure the major party candidates to renounce partisan gridlock.

Former Senator David L. Boren of Oklahoma, who organized the session with former Senator Sam Nunn, a Democrat of Georgia, suggested in an interview that if the prospective major party nominees failed within two months to formally embrace bipartisanship and address the fundamental challenges facing the nation, “I would be among those who would urge Mr. Bloomberg to very seriously consider running for president as an independent.”

Next week’s meeting, reported on Sunday in The Washington Post, comes as the mayor’s advisers have been quietly canvassing potential campaign consultants about their availability in the coming months.

And Mr. Bloomberg himself has become more candid in conversations with friends and associates about his interest in running, according to participants in those talks. Despite public denials, the mayor has privately suggested scenarios in which he might be a viable candidate: for instance, if the opposing major party candidates are poles apart, like Mike Huckabee, a Republican, versus Barack Obama or John Edwards as the Democratic nominee.

As I’ve discussed previously, such a bid would make far more sense, and have a greater chance of victory, if Edwards as opposed to Obama was the Democratic nominee. There has also been speculation since they met last month that Bloomberg would be less likely to run if Obama won the nomination and continued to oppose the current hyper-partisanship. All the potential Republican nominees are so far to the right that a centrist alternative might be viable, but Huckabee would provide Bloomberg with the greatest chance to pick up the most Republican votes.

The bipartisan meeting to consider this effort will include a public panel discussion and be followed by a press conference. This will hopefully provide further information as to the specific policies they might advocate. It will be necessary to see who the major party nominees are, as well as the specific policies of this group, to determine if they are worth supporting. Regardless, I am enjoying all the exploding heads in the liberal blogosphere among those who mistook rejection of right wing extremism as support for all their positions. With the Republicans no longer offering a meaningful choice as they are dominated by the religious right and neoconservatives, this might also provide the framework of an alternative to the Democrats to ensure that we continue to have the benefits of a two party system. A copy of the invitation to the planned gathering is under the fold.


More Controversy On Edwards Fund Raising

John Edwards has often claimed to be more pure than his opponents with regards to fund raising but I’ve previously noted many of the contradictions in his claims. He obtains a tremendous percentage of his funds from a single source–trial lawyers. A candidate who receives such a large percentage of his contributions from a single source is in no position to take such a high moral ground or claim independence. Edwards also didn’t come out too well when The Washington Post looked at how pure the candidates were on campaign finance issues. Edwards was the most secretive with regards to revealing the identities of his big fund raisers. Today The Trail presents further questions regarding Edwards’ fund raising:

Funding for Edwards Sparks Controversy
John Edwards’s populist message has, without a doubt, helped distinguish him from the other Democratic candidates in Iowa.

But a central tenet of that message — that he is campaigning free from the influence of the powerful forces that control Washington — is being challenged in light of the most recent federal election filings by one of the outside groups advocating on his behalf, and has sparked a round of dueling memos by the managers of the Barack Obama and the Edwards campaigns.

As The Washington Post reported Friday, the independent expenditure group Alliance for a New America recently received nearly $500,000 from Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, a 97-year-old socialite who is the widow of Paul Mellon and daughter-in-law of industrialist Andrew Mellon. It is at least the second check that Mellon has written to an Edwards-affiliated entity. The first, for $250,000, came in 2006, to the One America independent group, which helped support Edwards’s political efforts between his presidential bids.

“These latest revelations make it clear why Edwards was able to announce that he could accept public funds while still spending all he needed to spend in Iowa,” wrote Obama campaign manager David Plouffe in memo released Saturday morning. “His campaign simply exploited the biggest loophole in the campaign finance system in order to get public matching funds while arranging through allies to benefit from a 527. That’s how they avoided the spending limits that are a condition of the public matching funds.”

Edwards invoked the Mellon family name a month ago, and for very different reasons, when a New Hampshire voter at a town-hall meeting in Bow asked about the last time a president stood up to powerful, wealthy forces in America.

“The ones who are best known are not recent,” Edwards said. “I mean Teddy Roosevelt did it, he did it very clearly, and he did it, I might add, in a time where there was a huge concentration of wealth and power, because he was back in the days when — you know, some people refer to it as the Gilded Age — back in the period where, you know, the Rockefellers and the Mellons and the Carnegies, all these people, owned most of America or a big chunk of America, and they used their money and power to dominate what was happening in the government and to dominate what was happening in the economy.

“If we continue in the cycle — which is what’s happening now — if we continue in the cycle where what we do is we try to see, you know, who can raise the most money from whomever they can get it from to win this election and then be beholden to the people who helped them, nothing will change. That’s my whole point. Nothing will change.”

I’ve also noted another recent report suggesting that the Edwards campaign might have been coordinating efforts with a 527 group supporting him.

Liberal Hostility To Bipartisanship

Earlier I commented on the report of Michael Bloomberg meeting with members of both parties to consider alternatives to our current hyper-polarization. Most expect this to lead to a third party candidacy by Michael Bloomberg. While I would need to see the actual positions that this group takes before deciding upon support, I see something of potential value here. In contrast, the liberal blogosphere has been quite vitriolic in its condemnation of this idea, with many examples available through Memeorandum.

There are some exceptions. Naturally moderates see this as something of benefit, including Michael van der Galien and Justin Gardner. Libby is a rare liberal blogger who joins me in her concern over the ferocity of the response from other liberal bloggers.

Libby both sees some value in polarization but also recognizes its problems. Three have been many blogs posting on polarization lately. Many confuse sorting of the parties with polarization when they see this as a good thing.

Sorting of the parties is the separation of liberals into the Democratic Party and conservatives into the Republican Party. There are arguments for why this is preferable to the situation in the days in which the Democrats had both liberals and southern conservatives, and even Republicans had a real liberal contingent. With this sorting we now have a situation where each party does stand for something different in contrast to the days when it was commonly argued that there was not a dime’s worth of difference between the two.

Sorting is not the same as today’s hyper-partisanship. This partisanship not only divides the parties ideologically, but growing numbers in each party not only ignore the views of the other party but look with disdain on all but those on the extremes. We’ve already seen the Republicans ostracize the moderates from their party, resulting in them becoming no longer able to either govern effectively or win elections.

We are now seeing the same among many on the left. Elizabeth Edwards claims that those who do not support her husband’s policies are not actual Democrats. John Edwards and supporters like Paul Krugman, as well as many liberal bloggers, are attacking Obama for simply being willing to consider the views of others. When someone like Obama is being attacked for not being pure enough, the Democrats risk becoming just a mirror image of the extremist Republicans.

We’ve also seen plenty of situations in recent years when each party will block measures of the other not based upon what is good policy but based upon preventing the other from having a political victory. We have moved well beyond the days when Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil could share a friendly drink at the end of the day, and sometimes even cooperate on policy.

This is the situation which has made such a unity movement necessary. The vitriol with which many liberal bloggers are attacking the concept demonstrates exactly why this is necessary. It also solves a potential dilemma for me. Under normal circumstances if someone like Edwards were to receive the Democratic nomination I’d stay home, or possibly hold my nose and vote Republican. This is much harder to contemplate with the movement of the GOP to the far right, making me happy to have an alternative to consider such as Bloomberg.

Obama Addressed The Free Rider Program on MTP

Ben Smith notes that Barack Obama addressed the “free rider” problem on Meet the Press. Supporters of mandates for health care coverage argue that young healthy people would simply wait until they are sick to get insurance. Obama suggested you could “charge a penalty if they try to sign up later.”

This is an obvious solution–one so obvious that I already discussed it in previous posts on mandates such as here. There is precedent for such an idea in the Medicare Part D program. As I previously wrote:

It wouldn’t be difficult to structure the system to prevent people from getting a free ride by waiting until they have medical problems. This might be one situation in which preexisting condition clauses could be maintained. There is also a far better analogy from Medicare than the one Krugman provides in the Medicare Part D Program. The new program which covers pharmaceuticals, despite having many other flaws, has found a way around this type of problem. The plan is voluntary to join the plan but there are two forms of restrictions on those who haven’t joined but decide to join in the future. There is open enrollment for only part of the year, making it a gamble for people who might develop an expensive medical condition in March and have to pay for their prescriptions out of pocket until the following January. There is also a penalty as those who join later must pay higher premiums once they opt in to offset the fact that they didn’t pay into the system when they were younger and presumably less expensive to cover.

The underlying problem with mandates remains that this could be a deal breaker for many voters. Americans do not want to be told what to do. However, most Americans would rather have health insurance if they could afford it. Offering ways for those without coverage to obtain coverage will be far more effective, and far more likely to receive political support, than any mandatory program. The goal of health care reform should be to make health care coverage affordable, with universal coverage hopefully becoming the eventual consequence of this. Making coverage affordable, and not making it universal, should be the immediate goal of any health care plan. Politicians like Clinton and Edwards who consider whether a plan is universal to be the major criteria to compare plans miss the point.

Bipartisan Group Meeting To Consider Unity Government

For years the Republicans have ruled from the extreme right based and forcing the moderates out of their party until they wound up in the present situation where they first lost Congress and now look likely to lose the White House. Rather than learning from this experience, many Democrats are supporting John Edwards, who proposes to do exactly the same with his newly-adopted extreme populist polices. Numerous posts on liberal blogs, as well as writings from Paul Krugman, have promoted such hyper-partisanship, even to the point of dismissing Obama as undesirable. If the Democrats should be so foolish as to go this route, or to nominate Hillary Clinton who is also opposed by a considerable portion of the electorate, it will serve them right if they are denied the White House due to a new force in politics.

The Washington Post reports that Michael Bloomberg will be meeting with a group of Democrats and Republicans on January 7 to discuss developing a government of national unity. This would possibly include supporting a third party candidate for president. While they do not specifically bill this as backing Bloomberg, considering the money he would bring to such a campaign this would be the most likely outcome. Multiple supporters of the effort are mentioned:

Conveners of the meeting include such prominent Democrats as former senators Sam Nunn (Ga.), Charles S. Robb (Va.) and David L. Boren (Okla.), and former presidential candidate Gary Hart. Republican organizers include Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.), former party chairman Bill Brock, former senator John Danforth (Mo.) and former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman…

The list of acceptances suggests that the group could muster the financial and political firepower to make the threat of such a candidacy real. Others who have indicated that they plan to attend the one-day session include William S. Cohen, a former Republican senator from Maine and defense secretary in the Clinton administration; Alan Dixon, a former Democratic senator from Illinois; Bob Graham, a former Democratic senator from Florida; Jim Leach, a former Republican congressman from Iowa; Susan Eisenhower, a political consultant and granddaughter of former president Dwight D. Eisenhower; David Abshire, president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency; and Edward Perkins, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Historically third parties have performed poorly, but the situation is now quite different. Both parties are in danger of being controlled by their extremes leaving many people who feel that neither party represents them. The internet provides a mechanism for organization and fund raising which can challenge the advantages of the established parties. Bloomberg’s wealth would further decrease the advantages of the major parties, and the campaign could get off the ground more quickly than the campaigns of the Democratic and Republican nominees. In 2004, after clinching the Democratic nomination, John Kerry had to spend most of his time raising money before his campaign got off the ground. Without the advantages of incumbency, and with decreased contributions to Republicans this year, they would also be in a similar situation. Should either party have a protracted primary campaign they could be at an even further disadvantage. Ross Perot led the major party candidates in the polls at one point, and Bloomberg would be a much more “reasonable” candidate to borrow from Peggy Noonan’s recent analysis.

The chances of success of such an effort will depend upon who the major parties nominate. There have been rumors since their recent meeting that Bloomberg will not run if Obama is the Democratic nominee, and such a challenge would be futile considering Obama’s support among independents, many moderate Republicans, and even some libertarians who are disillusioned with Paul’s social conservatism and ties to right wing extremists.

Bloomberg’s best chance for victory would be if John Edwards received the Democratic nomination. In such a three way race, Bloomberg would prevent Edwards from winning the electoral votes of the east and west coasts. The Republicans would take the south and mountain states, and the midwest would be a battleground where Edwards would also have a difficult job winning many states. In such a situation many Democrats might ultimately decide to go with Bloomberg as opposed to risking support for Edwards who would place them in danger of coming in third. With Edwards made irrelevant, Bloomberg could then take the blue states and be more competitive than the Democrats have been in several red states. His chances would be best if Mike Huckabee won the Republican nomination as many Wall Street and country club Republicans would prefer Bloomberg over him.

There are many other possible scenarios. Knocking out the Republicans would be even easier if Ron Paul won the nomination, but this is hardly within the realm of reality. If Clinton won the Democratic nomination, Bloomberg would have a more difficult job of winning than if Edwards won the nomination, but with Clinton’s negatives a victory still might be possible. Even if Bloomberg could not win, such a candidacy would dramatically change the election and all previous predictions of the outcome would be irrelevant.

Update: Liberal Hostility To Bipartisanship