How a Bloomberg Campaign Would Impact the 2016 Presidential Election

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Sat, Feb 13 - 5:03 pm EDT | 2 years ago by
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    Michael Bloomberg Election 2016

    As if the 2016 election hasn’t proven crazy enough already, Michael Bloomberg is once again publicly considering a presidential run. Although the three-time New York City mayor has in the past declined to run after flirtations with both presidential and New York gubernatorial campaigns, the sheer absurdity of the current election season suggests a possible third-party run by the nation’s sixth wealthiest man isn’t out of the question.

    Bloomberg amassed his billions by using earnings from work as an investment banker to found Innovative Market Systems – later renamed Bloomberg – which used then-cutting edge computer technology to deliver reams of data and analysis to Wall Street’s financial giants. But as a politician, he is best known for his affinity for nanny-state policies and crusading for gun control.

    A lifelong Democrat, Bloomberg switched parties prior to running to succeed Rudy Giuliani as New York City mayor. In the middle of his second term, however, he left the Republican Party and became an independent. His repeated efforts to limit access to “unhealthy” foods like soda, salt, and trans fats, and other bizarre efforts like directing maternity wards to hide baby formula to encourage breastfeeding, earned him the moniker of Nanny-in-Chief in the eyes of many.

    Aside from policing the eating habits of the public, Bloomberg’s other favorite past time appears to be gun grabbing. He co-founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns with then Boston Mayor Tom Menino – the two pestered football fans with an obnoxious commercial during the 2012 Superbowl – which later combined with Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America to form Everytown for Gun Safety. Under Bloomberg’s leadership, New York City fined a store owner $30,000 for stocking shelves with six toy sheriff kits featuring obviously fake plastic guns, and he once argued that police officers across the nation should go on strike until legislatures confiscated enough guns.

    Bloomberg’s potential presidential campaign has been cheered on by hedge fund manager and crony capitalist Bill Ackman, who believes that if Bloomberg runs as an independent and earns enough electoral votes to prevent any single candidate from winning the necessary majority, then the Republican Congress – tasked under the circumstance in selecting a winner from the top three finishers – will pick Bloomberg over either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz should one of the two be the Republican nominee.

    Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus isn’t concerned, however, and welcomed a Bloomberg run as a bigger threat to the Democrats. “I don’t really view it as a third party,” he said. “I just view it as another Democrat, so you’ll have two Democrats running and splitting their vote.” A report that Bloomberg said he is more likely to run if Bernie Sanders is nominated over Hillary Clinton suggests he sees disaffected Democrats turned off by socialist radicalism as a potential target constituency. However, he also said the same about Cruz and Trump on the Republican side.

    The last billionaire to run a third-party campaign took more votes from Republicans and helped get Bill Clinton elected in 1992, but the circumstances between then and now differ in many key ways. Ross Perot ran a populist campaign against a sitting Republican who infamously betrayed a no-new-tax pledge. Today, the populist fervor is manifesting within the party primaries, and Bloomberg would have the tall order of trying to gain traction as an establishment figure instead of on the backs of populist anger, all the while holding positions – on guns and immigration – considered to be deal breakers by the Republican electorate.

    Of the two Republicans Bloomberg thinks give him the best chance, Cruz is intensely disliked by the party establishment, but it’s not clear how that’s likely to be enough for him to siphon significant votes from Republicans. Trump is the wild card, however, as his negatives are extremely high not just among Democrats and independents but also among Republicans. So a Trump nomination might lead to a number of higher defections, but still probably less than would come from the Democrats, who as the party currently occupying the White House under a disappointing President are in the same position that Republicans were in 1992.

    Even in the midst of declining party identification and the current chaotic campaign season, a third-party candidate actually winning is extremely unlikely. The system is simply too slanted in favor of the two major parties. But winning a single state in a close election might be enough to deny either nominee a majority in the electoral college, which would put Ackman’s long shot scenario, and likely Bloomberg’s only real hope, to the test. At the end of the day, however, it’s really hard to imagine a Republican-dominated House choosing a nanny-state, anti-gun former Democrat over their own party’s nominee.

    Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Jazz at Lincoln Center

    Brian Garst is an advocate for economic and individual liberty. He works as Director of Policy and Communications at the Center for Freedom & Prosperity, a free market think-tank dedicated to preserving tax competition. His writings have been published in major domestic and international papers, and he is a regular contributor for Cayman Financial Review. He also blogs at BrianGarst.com and you can find him on Twitter @BrianGarst.

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