Michael Bloomberg just took the first step to making a run for the Presidency.
Michael R. Bloomberg, a longtime Democrat who switched to the Republican Party to run for mayor of New York City in 2001, announced this evening that he is changing his party status and registering as an independent.
Mr. Bloomberg maintained that "my plans for the future haven't changed," but his decision -- the first change in party affiliation by a sitting New York City mayor since 1971, when John V. Lindsay switched from Republican to Democrat -- immediately set off intense speculation that he will enter the 2008 presidential race as an independent.
As well it should. Bloomberg's party switches have been about opportunism in the past - he switched from the Democratic to Republican parties simply to avoid a primary for the NYC mayor's race. Seems like the same calculation is at work here.
Third party candidacies are a fixture of Presidential politics; it's a bit more rare when there isn't a credible one than when there is. 1992 (Perot), 1996 (Perot), and 2000 (Nader) all had substantial third-party votes. So did 1952 (Dixiecrat Thurmond) and 1968 (George Wallace) and 1980 (John Anderson). What's not normal is a third-party candidate getting so much as a single electoral vote - I believe 1968 was the last time. But Bloomberg isn't a normal candidate and this isn't a normal year. Still, early indications are that Bloomberg would factor as a spoiler helping the Democrat in the race over the Republican. Of course, Bloomberg has a billion reasons, all of them with George Washington on the face, to change that dynamic. Odds are he would match up with conservative Democrat David Boren on a ticket, if not Chuck Hagel.
Bloomberg's done a decent enough job as mayor of New York City, actually, so I certainly believe he'd have more credentials than Perot. But would he run on... what, his executive experience? The same Democratic ideas on the environment that would typify the Democratic nominee? Perot's populism got him 20% of the vote. I don't know what Bloomberg's message would be outside of "I want to be President." Although, I must say that Bloomberg's dismissal of the whole booga-booga terrorism hysteria in the wake of the silly JFK plot was very heartening. If he runs on a "let's get America back to work again and stop the fear" message, maybe that would inspire people. Could be interesting.