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How Bloomberg Could Make Palin President

No one takes a run more seriously than the White House

Marc Tracy
October 25, 2010
Mayor Michael Bloomberg earlier this month.(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Mayor Michael Bloomberg earlier this month.(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Though the man himself has ruled it out, New York explores the implications of a Michael Bloomberg candidacy, whose likelihood “is just as great as, if not greater than, it was when he considered taking the plunge in 2008.” If the fiscally conservative, socially liberal Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent three-term mayor of New York City makes himself the first major Jewish presidential candidate, he could siphon votes from President Obama and hand the election to the Republican nominee, even (perhaps especially) if said nominee is a certain former Alaska governor. “The White House has made a gaudy show of sucking up to the mayor,” reports John Heilemann, “to keep him on the sidelines in 2012, where he and his billions would pose no danger of redrawing the electoral map in unpredictable and perilous ways.”

Bloomberg has been spending the midterm season traveling the country endorsing a bipartisan roster of smart, moderate, technocratic candidates (Republican Meg Whitman for California governor; Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) for re-election; independent former Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee for Rhode Island governor). Bloomberg probably won’t run unless he is truly viable, and he almost certainly won’t be truly viable unless, primarily, the economy continues to slip, further weakening Obama; and, secondarily, Sarah Palin emerges as the GOP front-runner.

Even if he runs, according to Heilemann, he is not likely to win, and in fact, particularly in the event of Palin’s nomination, he is most likely to hand the election, Ross Perot-like, to Obama. However:

By the accounts of strategists in both parties, Bloomberg—especially with the help of his billions—would stand a reasonable chance of carrying New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, and California. Combine that with a strong-enough showing in a few other places in the industrial Northeast to deny Obama those states, and with Palin holding the fire-engine-red states of the South, and the president might find himself short of the 270 electoral votes necessary to win.

(I can think of one demographic, unusually prevalent in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, and California, that might be unusually inclined to support Hizzoner.)

Assuming you still remember the basics from American Government 101, you know what would happen next: The election would be thrown to the House of Representatives—which, after November 2, is likely to be controlled by the Republicans. The result: Hello, President Palin!

My take, since you asked? The dramatic House of Representatives scenario is far-fetched: If Bloomberg ran and ended up a bigger Democratic than Republican vote-hogger, I still don’t see him winning any states other than, maybe, Jersey and Connecticut. However, the Republican would almost certainly win Florida, and quite possibly New York and California, giving him/her the requisite 270. In other words, it is time for Bloomberg, clear-eyed, to consider his legacy.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.