Independent Mike and The First Law of Third Parties

So Mike Bloomberg’s brief membership in the Republican party has ended, now that he made the cover of Time Magazine. (H/T)
Bloomberg and the GOP were always a marriage of convenience; a lifelong Democrat until he ran for Mayor, Bloomberg is your basic Northeastern centrist, liberal on social issues, fiscally moderate, but disdainful of the interest-group pathologies of the Democratic Party. The marriage made sense for both sides: Bloomberg needed a party and found an easier path in the GOP, which lacked longtime officeholders to get in his way; the GOP needed a successor who wouldn’t dismantle the progress – especially on law enforcement – made by Rudy Giuliani, and wouldn’t be beholden to the Al Sharptons of the world. By running as a Republican, Bloomberg made both sides happy, without ever really governing as a genuine Republican as opposed to a neoliberal. Now that he is term-limited from running again, the reason for the marriage has evaporated.
That said, the biggest winner from this announcement is Eliot Spitzer. Bloomberg would have been a formidable challenger for the governor’s mansion, running as a self-financed, widely-known, moderate Republican with executive experience but no ties to Albany. I can’t see him taking out an entrenched incumbent as an independent, and his decision to leave the party suggests a disinterest in going in that direction.
Speculation is rife, of course, that Bloomberg has his eye on national office. Think he will run even a semi-serious third party campaign for president? Think again. Remember the first, and perhaps only, rule of even modestly noteworthy third parties in our system: they must be organized around some issue on which the two major parties agree. The gravitational pull of the major parties is too strong to overcome simply by fielding a candidate who is charismatic (as the bloodless Bloomberg most assuredly is not – it’s not that he lacks the warmth and empathy of Bill Clinton, it’s that he lacks the warmth and empathy of Mike Dukakis) or who picks a different set of positions from the menu than either major party candidate. I’ve argued for some time that the sweet spot for an impact third party in 2008 would be anti-abortion, anti-war, anti-immigrant, anti-spending, anti-trade and perhaps anti-racial preferences – in short, a candidate with populist appeal to isolationist, socially conservative blue-collar voters – and almost none of that describes Bloomberg. I can’t think of any issue on which he is likely to dissent alone from a consensus shared by the two major parties’ nominees, and without that he would lack a rationale other than “let’s elect a really, really rich guy.”
Despite his various forays into nanny-state-ism, Bloomberg is, by New York City standards, not a bad mayor; like I said, he’s a technocratic caretaker who has done a lot to consolidate Mayor Giuliani’s gains. But he will not get 10% of the vote in any state in November 2008 if he runs.

20 thoughts on “Independent Mike and The First Law of Third Parties”

  1. Agreed, Crank. Question for BB, where will you attract votes? He will not attract from either major party, or the Libertarians. Very silly, and while he would have made it into a horse race with the Bulldozer, if you had 5B in the bank would you choose to live in Albany? I’d be shocked to see him break 3% outside of NY, MA, and CA. He and Arnold seem to be doing a nice media dance, but that’s all it should amount to.

  2. Picking Arnie as a running mate would pretty much sew it up for Conservatives. Arnie has managed to piss off just about every Conservative in the country. Therefore, their main draw would be from Libs. That is always good news.

  3. I think it’s part of the media play. Arnie cannot legally run for President, so why not have fun picking him as VP…. Bloomie will never compete, he only has a protest vote attraction. As pro gay marriage, pro immigration, pro abortion, anti gun, greenie he can’t hurt the Republican nominee. Many Dems are in an anti Bush fury, they will not desert the ticket for a protest vote. Crank’s point re the 3rd party type that could draw serious votes is dead on. A Lou Dobbs type of populist/protectionist could make waves. Mayor Mike is sucking up as much Indpendent air as possible, wonder of he is not thinking the same.

  4. As far as I can tell the only person in the GOP who sounds llike an honest to goodness Republican and makes any sense is Ron Paul. Y’all should send your $ to him.

  5. Mike is an excellent mayor I think; however, the fighting you have to do with the morons of both parties in DC, most of whom care about their parties and election funds more than their oath, would make it difficult. Also, he’ll never win. If Teddy couldn’t do it, then I doubt anyone else could either.

  6. “Socially liberal, fiscally moderate”-I wonder-does that much talked about political animal exist? I’ve had the sense, at least from the vantage point of 90 miles away in Philadelphia, that Mayor Mike (D-R-I) is the typical liberal who seeks the image of fiscal restraint but is in fact a spendthrift.

  7. Definitely a good mayor, Daryl. As the second Dem in the race where does he attract votes? Move to the left of Hillary on the war? That battle is being fought as we speak. He has no attraction to Republican or Libertarian voters nationally. The political consultants will get rich. And if he runs an effective campaign he might draw debate to one or two pet issues. Otherwise he is a non event for anyone not cashing a check, or meeting a deadline.

  8. Jim-Yeah, that addresses my point. I wasn’t even talking about parties, but about that much desired media label “fiscal moderate.”

  9. I think Abe’s second post neatly summed up Mike Bloomberg.
    As President, he would take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. Suing legitimate gun dealers for crimes committed with stolen guns is a pretty poor way to respect the 2nd Amendment.
    The other nanny state stuff is equally ridiculous, although probably allowable as the 10th amendment allows local legislation on things not covered by the document.
    Overall, the fact that he got elected and re-elected and that his opponents would even have been worse are reason enough for me to steer clear of NYC. Didn’t he raise real estate taxes by some unimaginable amount too?

  10. Maybe it’s me, but I think he could draw from people who are sick of the war but can’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary. As Matt Yglesias said, he’ll have the kind of program that will appeal to the media elites, so he’ll get a ton of coverage in addition to what he spends on his own. While I don’t think he can do it, I think he can do better than you’d expect.
    That said, for him to win seems nearly impossible, and you’d think he’s smart enough to know that. OTOH, nobody really thought he had a chance to be mayor, and it took a strange combination of circumstances for it to happen (9/11 boosting Rudy and his designated successor, and a Democratic Party civil war). Maybe he figures, what have I got to lose? Ross Perot got 19% of the vote and he was nuts.

  11. Devin has a good point in regard to his quote from Matt Yglesias.. I have never regretted noting what the media elites support and then generally running in the opposite direction.
    Media elite have the ability to write well and persuasively, but whenever they discuss a topic with which I have knowledge because of my own work or academic training, invariably I find their analysis to be incorrect.

  12. I don’t see much political oxygen for Bloomberg if Hillary gets the nomination – there just isn’t a lot of difference between them, so he’d only get the (perhaps not insignificant) votes of the people who like Hil’s positions but hate her. If the GOP goes with a southern conservative like Fred Thompson, Bloomberg might pick up moderate Republican votes in the Northeast, but only in places the GOP wasn’t likely to be competitive anyway.
    I suppose if someone more radical, like Edwards, was to get the Democratic nod, Bloomberg’s prospects would be better, though not “actually has a chance to win” better.

  13. I wouldn’t count him out for NYS guv. The fact that he opted out of the party doesn’t preclude the GOP from allowing him to run on the Republican line. Even if he’s not registered with the party, I suspect that the 2010 GOP gubernatorial nomination is his for the asking. Who else do they have? He can run on the GOP line while maintaining the pretense that he’s an independent outsider. He’s got the money and the approval ratings to give The Steamroller fits.

  14. Abe, I agree quite a lot. As I said, Teddy Roosevelt couldn’t win a third party race, and he was already president, and deserved that spot on the mountain.
    I would dearly love to have Mike as an Eastern Governator. Eliot Spitzer is one miserable person.

  15. Decent piece in the WSJ today regarding:
    A side note, the estimates of his net worth are way off. Bloomberg LLC is best in class, he owns 68%. Looking at the numbers tossed around in the Reuters/Thomson deal, and extrapolating on revenue and EBITA, the business is conservatively worth 20B. That puts him closer to 14b, vs media estimates around 6B. And it assumes no outside holdings. A silly assumption, no?
    Feeblemind makes a valid point, that is his philosophy. And it will not play well from the stump.
    More importantly, the Mets are killing me.

  16. What is up with the Mets? Have they heard of “taking a pitch?” Santana threw about 28 pitches in that game. It was like Nomar was up every single at bat.

  17. Santana made great use of the park. Mets swung at every high pitch, ton of fly ball outs. Shocked he only got 1 K. I really don’t know what’s up w/ the team. I thought they looked overwhelmed in the NLCS vs a team they should have dispatched in 5. This season they dropped every series vs Bravos, could not close the sweep v swooning Yanks etc, leads me to question the heart. For all the good buzz, this team has never show a thing with their back against the wall. That no Dodger got knocked down post Penny and bat flip re-enforced that thought. Long season, plenty of games to play. But I have no idea who these guys are.

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