Bloomberg poised for third-party
Ralph Z. Hallow
Tuesday May 15, 2007
New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is prepared to spend an unprecedented
$1 billion of his own $5.5 billion personal fortune for a third-party
presidential campaign, personal friends of the mayor tell The Washington
"He has set aside $1 billion to go for it," confided
a long-time business adviser to the Republican mayor. "The
thinking about where it will come from and do we have it is over,
and the answer is yes, we can do it."
Another personal friend and fellow Republican said in recent days
that Mr. Bloomberg, who is a social liberal and fiscal conservative,
has "lowered the bar" and upped the ante for a final decision
on making a run.
The mayor has told close associates he will make a third-party
run if he thinks he can influence the national debate and has said
he will spend up to $1 billion. Earlier, he told friends he would
make a run only if he thought he could win a plurality in a three-way
race and would spend $500 million -- or less than 10 percent of
his personal fortune.
A $1 billion campaign budget would wipe out many of the common
obstacles faced by third-party candidates seeking the White House.
"Bloomberg is H. Ross Perot on steroids," said former
Federal Election Commission Chairman Michael Toner. "He could
turn the political landscape of this election upside down, spend
as much money as he wanted and proceed directly to the general election.
He would have resources to hire an army of petition-gatherers in
those states where thousands of petitions are required to qualify
a third-party presidential candidate to be on the ballot."
Senior Republican officials -- including those supporting declared
Republican presidential nomination contenders -- and several top
Democrats told The Times they take the possibility of a Bloomberg
candidacy as a serious threat in November 2008.
The Bloomberg team is studying the strategies of Mr. Perot, the
Texas billionaire whose 1992 presidential campaign helped President
Clinton to win the White House with 43 percent of the popular vote.
"Mike has been meeting with Ross Perot's most senior people
about how they did an independent run in 1992," the Bloomberg
business adviser said on condition of anonymity so as to avoid appearing
to speak for Mr. Bloomberg.
Talk of Mr. Bloomberg as a third-party candidate comes as Republican
voters are deeply divided over their top-three declared candidates
-- Arizona Sen. John McCain, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani
and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- and are casting longing
glances at former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and former House
Speaker Newt Gingrich.
"Some of the people on McCain's [presidential campaign] staff
have been calling me to see if Mike is running because they are
ready to leave the McCain campaign, which is a biplane on fire and
spiraling down," the Bloomberg adviser said.
Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, another independent-minded Republican,
dined recently with Mr. Bloomberg and suggested on CBS' "Face
the Nation" over the weekend that he and Mr. Bloomberg might
make an independent run for the presidency.
But in Albany, N.Y., yesterday, Mr. Bloomberg downplayed that suggestion.
"I think he was probably joking," the mayor told reporters.
Mr. Hagel "speaks his mind. ... He's not happy with the same
things that I'm not happy about."
Republicans who say they are girding for a Bloomberg entry note
Mr. Bloomberg has a 68 percent share of his privately owned company,
Bloomberg LP. The company is worth $20 billion (and about $30 billion
if put on the block for public bidding) and earns $1.5 billion annually
in after-tax profits.
"If Bloomberg runs, he could have more money on hand than
either of the two major party nominees," said Mr. Toner, the
former FEC chairman. "It would be the first time that happened
in the modern era."
A New York Daily News poll of the city's voters finds that Mr.
Bloomberg, twice elected mayor as a moderate Republican, is far
more popular than Mr. Giuliani, the former mayor who leads in most
polls for the Republican presidential nomination.
Mr. Bloomberg said yesterday he was flattered by that result but
downplayed it at his Albany press conference, saying, "The
current mayor always has a real advantage."
Social conservative leaders have told The Times they are determined
to block Mr. Giuliani from becoming the Republican presidential
candidate but that they can't stop Mr. Bloomberg from making a third-party
"This much I know, if Giuliani gets the Republican nomination,
that is the ticket for the Democrats to get the White House in 2008,"
said Tony Perkins, president of the socially conservative Family
"Many pro-life voters who have been voting Republican will
not vote for the top of the ticket if it's Giuliani."
Other top social and religious conservative leaders, in separate
interviews and discussions last week, told The Times their movement
has decided to support Mr. Thompson for the Republican nomination.
They said he has satisfied them that he is reliably supportive of
religious-conservative positions on key issues.
"A third-party candidacy is almost inevitable" in 2008,
said former Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Paul Goldman, who
pointed out that third-party candidacies have affected the outcome
of five of the past 10 presidential elections -- including George
Wallace in 1968, John Anderson in 1980, Mr. Perot in 1992 and '96,
and Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in 2000.
"If the Republicans nominate someone the press can tag as
a pro-war social conservative and the Democrats pick an anti-war
liberal, Bloomberg will run up the center," Mr. Goldman said.
"If conservatives don't rally to stop Giuliani they will get
a third party socially conservative candidate who will only help
elect the Democrat."
BECAUSE THERE'S A WAR ON FOR YOUR MIND