Thursday, January 03, 2008

A New Political Prediction

Early yesterday morning, Business Week announced ten likely events for 2008.

The predictions, which can be read here, include pretty safe ones like oil will top $100 a barrel (Duh! What a reach. Oil hit that target less than twelve hours later) and Facebook fatigue (Please, I'm begging you, don't invite me to be your Facebook friend).

But the one I found the most intriguing was this:

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will enter the Presidential race in February, after it becomes clear which nominees will get the nod from the major parties. His multiple billions and organization will impress voters—and stun rivals. He'll look like the most viable third-party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt. But Bloomberg will come up short, as he comes in for withering attacks from both Democrats and Republicans. He and Clinton will split more than 50% of the votes, but Arizona's maverick senator, John McCain, will end up the country's next President.

I found this prediction fascinating on so many levels. First, for those of you who are not political junkies, Bloomberg had been a Democrat his entire adult life--until, at about age 59--he switched to the Republican Party in order to run as Mayor of New York. After two terms as Mayor, in last June, he left THAT party and declared himself an Independent, fueling speculation that he wanted to make a run for the presidency and knew the country was shifting away from Bush's party.

Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of Roll Call, had this to say last April:

Obviously, the historical record of third parties is dismal. Not even ex-President Theodore Roosevelt could win. But, every decade or two, third-party candidacies do serve a purpose. They impel the major parties to take action they might otherwise avoid.

In 2008, all indications are the public wants an end to incessant partisan combat and attention to pressing national problems. If Democrats and Republicans can't deliver, Bloomberg has shown that he can.

On December 13th, the San Jose Mercury News reported:

One major effort, Unity '08, is already gearing up to offer America a viable "third way" presidential campaign. Through a wide open, online convention next June, Unity '08 plans to nominate a true "unity" ticket, headed by a Democrat, Republican or independent presidential candidate, balanced by someone from the other party in the vice presidential slot. Speculation in the press so far has focused on New York City's pragmatic and very effective Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as respected former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., and Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times had this story:

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a potential independent candidate for president, has scheduled a meeting next week with a dozen leading Democrats and Republicans, who will join him in challenging the major-party contenders to spell out their plans for forming a "government of national unity" to end gridlock in Washington.

Others who will be at the Jan. 7 session at the University of Oklahoma say that if the likely nominees of the two major parties do not pledge to "go beyond tokenism" in building an administration that seeks national consensus, they will be prepared to back Bloomberg or someone else in a third-party presidential campaign.

The meeting will include Democrats Sam Nunn, Charles S. Robb, David L. Boren and Gary Hart, all former senators; and, on the GOP side, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, former Republican National Committee Chairman Bill Brock, former Sen. John Danforth, and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.

"It is not a gathering to urge any one person to run for president, or to say there necessarily ought to be an independent option," said the meeting's host, university President Boren. "But if we don't see a refocusing of the campaign on a bipartisan approach, I would feel I would want to encourage an independent candidacy."

If you disregard the period around the Civil War when the two-party system fell apart temporarily, no third party candidate has ever won the U.S. presidency. In modern times, there have been three serious attempts, but no third party winners. Every one of the three tries split the vote of a party, giving the victory to the other.

In the 1912 election, Theodore Roosevelt ran as the "Bull Moose Party" nominee. He won 27.4% of the popular vote. The split in the Republican vote gave Democrat Woodrow Wilson the presidency.

In the 1992 election, Ross Perot, running as an independent, won 18.9% of the popular vote. Conservatives complained he acted as a spoiler for Republicans, giving the election to Bill Clinton.

In the 2000 election, Ralph Nader, running as the Green Party candidate, won 2.7% of the vote. Although the percentage was tiny, it was significant in the tight race between Bush and Gore and gave Bush the edge he needed.

Bloomberg has been both a Democrat and a Republican. He aligns more closely to the social agenda of the Democrats, but is a fiscal conservative like the Republicans. A third party run by him could significantly impact the 2008 election.

Stay tuned . . .


Jen FitzGerald said...


This was great - gave me a good chuckle. Can I borrow one or both of your kitties??? Pretty please? It seems I also have a rodent guest or two!

Happy New Year!

Jen FitzGerald

PS - I still have a 1st Sale Pen with your name on it.

Jen FitzGerald said...

Oops! Posted the last comment under the wrong message...

But I wanted to let you know that I always enjoy and learn a lot from your varied blog topics.

I personally watch/listen to very little news and this info on a third party is very interesting.

I really envy and applaud you for having such a wide range of interests and knowledge.

Have a great day!

Jen FitzGerald

Maya Reynolds said...

Jen: Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words.

I'll look forward to an opportunity to get that pen one of these days.

Happy New Year.

Peter L. Winkler said...

Dear Maya:

I urge you to read Glenn Greenwald’s piece about Bloomberg at Salon. He begins: “Here's Bloomberg's record of Independence, Judgment, Competence, and Trans-partisan Wisdom. Consider how sterling his judgment is and how able he would be to make the world respect us again...”

Take care,