To modest clamor, a few weeks ago former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg leaked some interest in joining the 2016 Presidential race. It’s not the first time he’s floated such an idea, but this is the closest he’s ever come to running. As a 10-year veteran of the Big Apple, mostly during the period of Bloomberg’s administration, I have to admit to mixed feelings on the possibility.
I view the former mayor’s testing of the waters with some trepidation and also some interest. I was pretty happy with his first two terms, but I had serious problems with the politicking and pandering to the New York City Council that he did in order to legally run for and win a third term — which ended about as rosily as third terms usually do. Establishment Republicans might cling to Bloomberg’s smart business credentials and moderation. Moderate Democrats might cling to his social liberalism and strong stance on gun regulation. In a way, he’s both parties’ nightmares and dreams in one: a moderate Republican who’s not tentative about pulling the trigger on executive control when he deems it necessary, and a social liberal who reflects the majority of Americans who are prepared to view issues like marriage equality, income inequality and race from the standpoint of fairness and compassion.
[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]One can’t say it’s an uninteresting election cycle…[/pullquote]What else would a Bloomberg run mean to the 2016 race? That’s it’s kind of a crapshoot. Bloomberg has made it clear that if Donald Trump or Ted Cruz is the Republican nominee and if Bernie Sanders is the Democratic nominee, he will run. So if it’s Trump, Bloomberg and Sanders, we’d have three men in their 70s — two billionaires and a populist. If it’s Trump, Bloomberg and Hillary Clinton, we’d have two men and a woman in their 70s — two billionaires and a millionaire. In the latter, it’s not exactly a rousing call to the voting booth, in light of the current populist swing of the nation. If it’s Trump vs. Sanders, a Bloomberg candidacy may help Sanders for that same reason. Or it may attract moderate Democrats wary of Sanders’ liberalism. If the Republican nominee is someone other than the rancid mess that is Trump, then the whole picture gets thrown into the air like popcorn. No matter one’s view of politics, one can’t say it’s an uninteresting election cycle.
There’s also the matter of whether or not Bloomberg has the national clout and patience for a third-party run. Many states place pretty high bars on qualifying to be on the general ballot — some are an attempt to avoid the effects caused by Ross Perot’s first run back in 1992. Some states don’t allow a third-party candidate to start collecting the requisite signatures and other requirements until March, anyway; this is probably an advantage, as Bloomberg can view the next few primary battles and determine whether or not his voice would be welcome or effective. Though much has been made of Clinton’s recent defeat in New Hampshire to Sanders, the loss was predicted for months. The only difference it makes is that among those not particularly wonky when it comes to politics, Sanders has a veneer of momentum.
Bloomberg is an interesting politician. He carries gravitas, moderation and business acumen. He doesn’t have much of a personality, but that’s ok — there are plenty of people he can pay to groom him. Clinton would be a wonderful president but makes a lousy candidate: she’s bad at running. Sanders has similar problems: his views and ideals are sincere, but many question his ability to govern against a fanatically opposing Congress. Trump and Cruz each know how to campaign but would be terrifying as presidents. Whatever you think of Bloomberg, he’s a very interesting alternative for those of us in the middle. I’m going to stick with my current horse for the nonce — it would take a lot of convincing for me ultimately to cast a vote for a President Bloomberg. But he’s the most interesting monkey wrench thrown into this mix thus far.