- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Election analysts, pundits and editorial writers say an independent presidential run by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg offers little more than the prospect of a White House spoiler.

They say Mr. Bloomberg, whose rumored candidacy is a topic fueled by his staff and operatives, would be a tremendous long shot to win and would most likely hurt the Democratic candidate’s chance for victory.

“I don’t think many people would say he has a 20 percent chance. They would say maybe 5 percent or 10 percent,” said Rhodes Cook, a political and electoral vote analyst. “But I think it’s more likely that he would follow the path of other independent candidates in that he will be strongest on the day he announced and after that he might go downhill.

“Still, there’s an opening here. The number of independents in this country is growing. That’s where the real growth has been over the last 10 or 20 years. It has not been among Democrats or Republicans; it’s been the independents.”

Mr. Bloomberg would run on a platform of ending political gridlock in Washington and fixing a dysfunctional government. He has hired several campaign consultants and advisers who have experience in getting on state ballots, but winning in enough states to get 270 electoral votes is a daunting challenge without the support of a national party.

“Political parties, for all the nastiness between them, have proved essential to bridge the regional divisions in the United States,” the Boston Globe said last week in an editorial critique of a Bloomberg candidacy. “A narrowly focused third party, or an independent campaign, lacks the breadth of shared interests to govern a nation of 300 million people.”

In the 2000 presidential election, Ralph Nader of the Green Party drew only 2.7 percent of the more than 105 million popular votes cast, but it was widely thought that he cost Al Gore the presidency, given the closeness of the Florida vote. Tycoon Ross Perot spent $60 million of his vast fortune on a presidential bid in 1992 and won 19 percent of the vote. But he did not win a single electoral vote, and many think he helped put Bill Clinton in the White House.

“It would take a stark contrast, say John Edwards versus Mike Huckabee or Fred Thompson, to give him any room to run. The more likely matchup, John McCain versus Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, would put him in the role of spoiler,” said Thomas E. Mann, veteran presidential elections analyst at the Brookings Institution.

But David Remnick, writing last week in the New Yorker, said, “Bloomberg, beyond his scolding talk of hyperpartisanship, hasn’t offered much to distinguish himself from those who have braved the comical and often appalling endurance test known as the nominating process.”

Mr. Bloomberg was a lifelong Democrat until he ran for mayor as a Republican in 2001, then announced he was abandoning that label for independent.

Bloomberg’s pro-science, anti-gun, pro-green, anti-smoking, pro-choice, anti-french fries, just-left-of-center ideology seems a domestic agenda that is already well covered,” Mr. Remnick said. “Bloomberg could siphon votes, mainly from the Democrats, but to what end?”

Noting Theodore Roosevelt’s 1912 pledge to return the country to progressive Republicanism and Mr. Perot’s single-minded focus on the deficit, the Wall Street Journal said, “We aren’t aware of any such cause or idea that Mr. Bloomberg represents. Perhaps he could run on ‘competence,’ but that’s a less than thrilling call to arms.”