Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bloomberg Leaves GOP

In a move that should come as no surprise to anyone, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has renounced his affiliation with the Republican Party and now classifies himself as an Independent. Rumors abound that the move is a prelude to his unannounced 2008 Presidential bid, however those ambitions notwithstanding, the move is certainly consistent with Bloomberg's own political beliefs. (Guardian Unlimited: Bloomberg quits Republican party.)

Originally aligned with the Democratic Party, Bloomberg reclassified himself as a Republican several years ago, however that mantle never really fit. Bloomberg's open support of gay marriage, abortion rights, gun control, and stem cell research are in direct opposition to the Republican platform. His post-911 property tax increase, while likely justified to counter the economic fallout from the terrorist attacks, also put him at odds with Republican handlers. It's no surprise that Mayor Bloomberg is uncomfortable under the Republican umbrella and has chosen to re-categorize himself as an Independent.

While he has not yet declared his candidacy for 2008, Bloomberg certainly appears poised to do so. Sources close to him indicate that the Mayor is prepared to launch a Presidential bid and has set aside up to $1 Billion of his own funds to support the campaign. (Washington Times: Bloomberg poised for third-party campaign.) Given the impact other third-party candidacies have had on prior Presidential elections, one must wonder what a Bloomberg candidacy will do to both parties in 2008.

Republican strategist Greg Strimple believes, "If he runs, this guarantees a Republican will be the next president of the United States. The Democrats have to be shaking in their boots." Well, to be clear, I would not expect a Republican strategist to say anything else. I'm not so sure that it's an accurate statement, however.

When you look at Bloomberg's position on key issues, it seems easy to conclude that he will draw more votes from the left than he does from the right. But that conclusion completely ignores the positions of the leading candidates in either party. Much of what he believes also falls in line with the positions of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, one of the Republican front runners. Should Giuliani or any of the moderate Republican candidates actually garner the GOP nomination, a Bloomberg run would draw as much from the GOP as it would from the Democrats.

The nation is very much divided into three groups right now. The Democratic party has definitely shifted pretty far to the left, at least in public rhetoric, but the Republican party is divided between the ultra-conservative right and a more moderate wing that is rising to the forefront in the campaign. The bulk of the nation, however, is right smack in the middle, and it is that faction that may well be drawn to a Bloomberg candidacy. With $1 Billion in his war chest before he even starts gathering campaign contributions, it would be folly to dismiss him as a viable candidate in his own right.

The one thing that is a certain outcome should Bloomberg declare in '08 is that the majority of the people will have voted against the 44th President of the United States. There are historical lessons to be learned regarding the impact of third party candidacies. Abraham Lincoln won the presidency in 1860 with only 39% of the vote. In fact, Lincoln wasn't even on the ballot in several states. In 1892, the Populist Party ran James Weaver and actually garnered 22 electoral votes, taking 8.9% of the vote. A showing like that in 2008 may be sufficient to send the election to the House of Representatives, something that has not happened in over a century.

Bottom line is, don't discount a Bloomberg candidacy. With his war chest, he is certainly a viable candidate in his own right. His political views are aligned with the majority of the moderate voters, making him attractive to voters from both political parties. When you look at the approval ratings of the Democratic controlled Congress coupled with the approval ratings of the Republican controlled White House, the only conclusion possible is that the nation is clamoring for a change in direction. It is not policy per se, it is the partisan rhetoric that has soured the nation's stomach on today's politics. It's business as usual regardless of which party is in control, and the nation is fed up with it. The nation may well be ready to embrace a third-party candidacy if for no other reason than to extract themselves from the partisan quagmire that has increasingly engulfed us over the course of the past two decades. Given his current state of funding, Bloomberg may well gain sufficient support to give both parties a run for their money.

Please do not interpret this as any endorsement of Michael Bloomberg on the part of The Grape's Vine. I do not support any of his positions on the major issues, and certainly do not endorse him as a 2008 candidate. Understand, though, that his candidacy must be taken seriously. He will definitely impact the 2008 election and may well be the deciding factor in determining who sits in the Oval Office in January of 2009.

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