The possibility of a third-party White House bid by billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg got a mixed reaction from those already in the race Sunday, with some candidates looking forward to an opportunity to run against Mr. Bloomberg, and others seemingly unwilling even to entertain the thought.
With the growing possibility that Republican front-runner Donald Trump could capture his party’s nomination and Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders surging against Democratic establishment favorite Hillary Clinton, Mr. Bloomberg has floated the possibility that he’d jump into the race as an independent.
Mr. Trump said he would “love it” if his fellow billionaire entered the race, saying it would only highlight his big policy difference with the former mayor.
“He’s very opposite on me with guns, and he’s opposite on pro-life, and he’s opposite on lots of things,” Mr. Trump said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “So I would love to have Michael get in the race. But I don’t know if he’s going to do it. But I hope he does. I would love to compete against Michael.”
Mr. Sanders, a self-described socialist with a message heavily slanted against Wall Street and corporate power, also had a “bring it on” attitude toward Mr. Bloomberg’s potential bid.
“Well, my reaction is that if Donald Trump wins and Mr. Bloomberg gets in, you’re going to have two multibillionaires running for president of the United States against me,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “And I think the American people do not want to see our nation move toward an oligarchy where billionaires control the political process. I think we’ll win that election.”
Mrs. Clinton said Mr. Bloomberg would not have to get in the race if his intention was to prevent a fringe candidate from winning, because she would win the nomination and the White House.
“The way I read what he said is, if I didn’t get the nomination, he might consider it,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “Well, I’m going to relieve him of that and get the nomination so he doesn’t have to [run].”
Some candidates refused to take the bait, declining to speculate on what effect a third-party bid for the White House might have on the already chaotic race.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida dismissed Mr. Bloomberg as a “private citizen who owns a big company.”
“I’ll wait until he becomes a candidate. If he becomes a candidate, then we’ll have a conversation about our difference,” the Florida Republican said. “If he is just out there talking about running for president, well, there’s a lot of people that have done that. So as of now, he’s just a private citizen who owns a big company.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also refused to weigh in on a potential Bloomberg run, saying that the former New York City mayor was not in the race yet and it was not necessary to decide how his candidacy might alter the election.
“If Mayor Bloomberg were ever to get into the race, we all, and myself included, could then make an evaluation of him as a potential president,” Mr. Christie said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “But when you’re not a candidate, you don’t deserve to be evaluated as to whether you’re going to be a good president or not.”
He did, however, praise him as a “good mayor.”
Mr. Bloomberg, should he enter the race, would face a steep uphill climb to the White House, as no independent candidate has ever captured the presidency.
A lifelong Democrat, he decided to run as a Republican in his first successful campaign for mayor in 2001, but declared himself an independent after his 2005 re-election. He does not fall neatly into any party lines — he is a successful businessman with close Wall Street ties, but also has liberal social views including strong support for abortion rights and gun control.