Having recently finished reading Theresa Amato's Grand Illusion, a book that explores the many significant barriers to an independent or third party presidential bid in the United States, Bloomberg will need to spend a hefty chunk of his earmarked $1 billion just getting on the ballot in enough states -- not even all 50 -- to guarantee a majority of votes in the Electoral College.
Historically the raison d'être of independent or third party presidential runs is issue based. In the last 25 years, for example, we have had Ralph Nader's left progressive Green Party challenge and Ross Perot's deficits -- budget and trade -- jeremiad. Bloomberg, in this upside down world we live in, would be launching a first -- an independent presidential campaign in defense of a failed status quo. (An argument could me made that John Anderson's independent run against Carter and Reagan in 1980 was a precursor.)
The point I want to make here is that there will be no Bloomberg volunteers ready for mobilization because he is not leading with any issues other than "None of the above." The 1% is not going to sign up to gather signatures on street corners in Dallas to get Bloomberg on the ballot in Texas. Possibly he could lasso some soccer moms if he comes forward with something bold on guns, or maybe some suburban conservationists if he talks up renewable energy. But until that happens he is going to have to pay for absolutely everything. One billion U.S. dollars cannot buy the White House if you are peddling snake oil that the rubes have already sampled to their detriment.
The big takeaway of the Burns and Haberman article is that the Establishment, the 1%, the ruling elite -- pick your label -- is beginning to accept the obvious: Trump is going to win (a must-read on the GOP's coming to acceptance about Trump is Friday's "Donald Trump or Ted Cruz? Republicans Argue Over Who Is Greater Threat" by Jonathan Martin, backed up by the story about longtime Iowa senator Charles Grassley appearing at a Trump rally yesterday) and Hillary cannot win a general election against Trump, and she might not even be able to fend off Sanders in the primary.
A passage in the Burns and Haberman piece that captures the freak-out currently underway in Establishment circles is the quote from corrupt power broker and Clintonista Ed Rendell, the guy who as Philadelphia District Attorney prosecuted no one for the bombing of the MOVE house on Osage Avenue that destroyed a city block:
Edward G. Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania and a past Democratic National Committee chairman, said he believed Mr. Bloomberg could compete in the race if activist candidates on the left and right prevailed in the party primaries.
“Mike Bloomberg for president rests on the not-impossible but somewhat unlikely circumstance of either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz versus Bernie Sanders,” said Mr. Rendell, a close ally of Mrs. Clinton’s who is also a friend of Mr. Bloomberg’s. “If Hillary wins the nomination, Hillary is mainstream enough that Mike would have no chance, and Mike’s not going to go on a suicide mission.”
In a three-way race featuring Mr. Sanders and Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Rendell said he might back the former New York mayor.
“As a lifelong Democrat, as a former party chairman, it would be very hard for me to do that,” he said. “But I would certainly take a look at it — absolutely.”This is a former head of the DNC saying he will not back the party's nominee for president. What does that tell you about party leaders' faith in democracy? It should tell you that they don't have time for it.
It seems like every presidential election cycle for the last 12 years we go through this "Bloomberg might run as an independent" kabuki. Mike Bloomberg is a smart guy who knows how to read the polling he no doubt commissions for himself. He has never run as a independent for president because he can't win. He is a billionaire solidly of the billionaire class. His natural constituents are the elites who already control the duopoly, not the rank-and-file voters who have abandoned Bush and are making haste to abandon Clinton.
Republicans are spinning a Bloomberg independent candidacy as great for the GOP, just as they did at first when Perot decided to run in 1992. Now it is conventional wisdom that Perot elected Clinton.
Bloomberg will not run if Hillary holds on and wins the Democratic primary. He very well might run if Sanders wins, though the fact that the GOP appears now to be coalescing around Trump might keep him on the sidelines.
If it does end up being Bernie vs. Trump/Bloomberg, that is a bonanza for the Sanders camp. Bernie will be the only candidate able to say that he is not a billionaire.
The real problem for Hillary going forward is now that she has gone negative she is in a box. Read Brent Budowsky's "As Sanders Soars, Clinton Goes Negative — A Bad Move":
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) may be poised to win both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, and as Sanders soars, rival Hillary Clinton is making the worst possible move of launching an all-out attack against him, which is the same mistake she made when she attacked Barack Obama in 2008.
For some time, I have strongly advised people close to the Clintons to not go negative against Sanders. Clinton needs to inspire voters about why she should be president, not become a negative candidate who reminds voters of the kind of politics they want to end.
Remember — and this is a key point — that when Clinton attacks Sanders for the vision and programs he believes in, she is attacking the large numbers of Democrats and independents who believe in what Sanders believes and favor the same changes and reforms that he promotes.
The Clinton attack against Sanders is the worst possible move for her and for Democrats. Because Clinton has low ratings for trustworthiness, whereas Sanders's ratings are high, a Clinton attack against Sanders will backfire.
Even worse for Clinton, the problem is that she has never articulated an uplifting and exciting reason for voters to back her, and her negative attack against Sanders will drown out any positive message she may have, if she has one.
Clinton's attacks against Sanders sounds strangely similar to her attacks against Obama in 2008. She is charging — among many things — that Sanders does not offer a realistic program, which is both condescending and wrong and an insult not only to Sanders, but to the large number of Democrats who are with Sanders.
What a presidential candidate should do is offer a panoramic vision of how America can become better, mobilize support for that vision, seek an election victory with a mandate, and then negotiate with Congress from strength and make the compromises that must ultimately be made to win the most dramatic possible reforms. That is what important presidents such as Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy did. That is what Sanders is doing.
What a presidential candidate should not do is identify with the status quo and oppose dramatic change even before the first ballot is counted and attack the change candidates as naive or unrealistic. This is what Clinton is doing with her negative attacks against Sanders.Hillary has locked herself into a 50%+1 election scenario. This might be enough for her to muddle through in the Democratic primary based on a lack of familiarity with Sanders in red states as well as Clinton's advantage with super-delegates, but it guarantees a loss in the general against anybody but Cruz or Bush, and those two are not going to win the Republican primary.
At this point, with Iowa a little more than a week away, I am starting to think Hillary might not be the Democratic nominee.