Bloomberg Redux

Bloomberg Redux

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Having received a number of comments to the previous posting, it seems worthwhile to continue the discussion with some additional observations. As was clear in Sunday’s New York Times and across the media, the Bloomberg trial balloon is considerably more serious than the usual murmurings about a third party run for the White House. There are however two specific questions which need to be understood beyond the emotional; one constitutional and one political.

It must remembered that it is the Electoral College (EC) which elects the President and not the popular vote. In the EC a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the electoral votes. Failing that the matter is referred to the newly elected members of the House of Representatives as the first matter of business after it will convenes in January following the November election. The Constitution provides that each state delegation in the House has one vote with a majority of votes, 26 today, required to elect a President from among the top three to have received votes in the EC. Assuming the various state delegations in 2017 would be either Republican or Democratic controlled, it would be reasonable to assume that one candidate will receive the requisite number. (Should there indeed be a Bloomberg—or Trump—independent candidacy, it would be highly unlikely that an Independent presidential candidate would gain support from a majority of state delegations in the House.) At the moment 33 state delegations are controlled by the Republicans, fourteen by the Democrats, and three are evenly split between the parties. Assuming some of these numbers might or could change in this extremely tumultuous election year, it still would be most unlikely that the Democrats will be able to swing control of a majority of state delegations to their party in November.  

Understanding this it must be assumed that Bloomberg would enter the race to win in November. This would require him to obtain 270 –a majority—of electoral votes in November. In an election thrown into the House the probability for an Independent candidate to win would probably require a miracle. Similarly for electors to defect from the party or candidate to whom they might have been pledged would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis.

From a political perspective the debate over a Bloomberg candidacy opens up additional questions some of which were alluded to in the previous posting. Assuming Bloomberg does not see a Sanders presidency as in the best interest of the country nor a Trump or Cruz presidency, Bloomberg well may be playing things more cutely. He could run a campaign, poll strong numbers among the people–he will have no actual primary or caucus votes—so that a draft Bloomberg movement could develop prior to or at the Republican or the Democratic convention; if and when no candidate arrives at the convention with sufficient delegates to receive the nomination without a floor fight.

Ironically, all of this discussion would be totally mute without a Bloomberg or a Trump or a Ross Perot running with unlimited financial resources at their disposal. Added to the financial outrage created by the Supreme Court as consequence of its decisions in the Citizens United case (2010) and the McCutcheon case (2014), it only underscores the insane amount of billions of dollars being spent on the election.  

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