Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
As was suggested here recently, it is now becoming more and more possible that Michael Bloomberg may well decide to compete for the presidential nomination this year as an Independent. While talking about it is fine and taking surveys only costs money–of which Bloomberg has plenty–it seems that there may well be more than idle conversation and a bit of self-aggrandizement on his part at play at this time. In fact, this chatter is reflecting two very clear responses that have been evident in very different ways already during this electoral season.
First, among Democrats there are many people—even women—who do not like Hillary for a numerous reasons. Some of these people may truly be leaning to support Sanders, but they seem to know in their hearts that he will not be elected President in November. Similarly, the leading Republicans may well be attracting large support from disgruntled Republicans, evangelicals, and the disgruntled base, but more and more main-line, traditional, establishment Republicans are finding themselves unable to accept the possibility of a Trump or Cruz nomination or presidency. Witness the remarks, of Bob Dole, the National Review, and fact that there are no elected senators or governors supporting either of them.
Second, there is a growing sense that this year election season already is and may well continue to be very different. While historically speaking independent election campaigns have never won a presidential election, some analysts are being to suggest that what we may be seeing in 2016 is the end of the GOP as we know it; as a major party in the American two party system. Into such a vacuum could well move an Independent Bloomberg candidacy and maybe even a new national party.
A possible Bloomberg campaign has both advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand he does not need to raise money to campaign. Like Trump he can self-finance his campaign. He has high name recognition from his world-wide businesses and his years as New York City Mayor. (Some people often suggested that being mayor of New York City almost like holding national office.) As an independent, he will not need to go through an arduous primary/caucus process or a national convention. He can also name his vice-presidential running mate at any time he chooses.
His major negatives are that he has no ground game in place, no staff, and no organized national operation. He will certainly be able to get himself on the ballot throughout the country but he needs to organize that effort soon. Bloomberg will have problems from all sides on many substantive issues. Bloomberg has a clear record of being liberal on social issues—including gun control, abortion, and the environment. At the same time, he may have a good reputation and relationship with Wall Street, but many in the public will see him as too fiscally conservative. Based on his public remarks over the years, Bloomberg has appeared to be very hardline on foreign policy and national security issues; somewhat akin to Bill Clinton and his Democratic Leadership Council.
Whether Bloomberg will be able to sell this amalgam in 2016 will be the latest curiosity to come across a year in which it appears almost anything goes.