Bipartisan Forum Meets Without Feared Third Party Campaign

There have been numerous reports on yesterday’s bipartisan meeting at the University of Oklahoma, including on NPR’s Morning Edition, the New York Times, and the New York Daily News. Despite all the vitriol addressed towards this meeting by partisans on both sides, the sun still rose today despite this meeting.

The media, always overly expressed with the horse race, has concentrated on Michael Bloomberg, whose possible independent bid was actually a side issue. The meeting was planned well before the Iowa and New Hampshire votes and came from discussions between David Boren and Christine Todd Whitman who were concerned over the hyper-partisanship which they feel is preventing politicians from looking at the big issues facing the country. They had little interest in a third party bid:

Forum organizer David Boren, a former Oklahoma U.S. senator who is now the university’s president and a Bloomberg cheerleader, said the panelists “did not discuss at all” a Bloomberg candidacy when they spoke in private.

“Why don’t you believe what the man says?” Boren said later.

Participants said they hoped presidential hopefuls hear their call for more cooperation in government.

“Seeking the middle ground is a search for solutions, not a compromise of basic principles,” said former New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman, who said last week she planned to stick with the Republican Party.

Asked what they would do if their words are ignored, none of the participants spoke of supporting a third-party candidate.

“I think all the members of the panel are optimistic that the candidates will listen to us and will understand that there is a deep need in this country and a deep desire among the electorate to have candidates face the big issues,” Bloomberg said.

Just as Republicans like Whitman expressed no desire to abandon their party, Gary Hart plans to support a Democrat. “I am a Democrat, and I will endorse a Democratic president,” he said. “There are no independent candidates. I won’t endorse a Republican.” He did say he plans to endorse a Democratic candidate in the next 48 hours but not which one. Most likely Obama will be receiving many endorsements if he wins the New Hampshire primary as expected.

The likelihood that Obama will win the Democratic nomination makes an independent bid by Bloomberg less likely as Obama has already demonstrated an interest in reaching out to independents and has received considerable support from them. While an independent campaign might have made sense if Democrats had nominated someone like John Edwards, an independent run against Obama would be seen as a purely vanity effort and would have little chance of success. In contrast, the Republican Party remains firmly in the grasp of extremists and hopefully this forum will be of value to the moderates like Whitman who wish to reverse this trend.

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