Good morning Austin:
Back on May 4, six weeks before Donald Trump came down the escalator and announced his candidacy for president, First Reading asked the question: Who is more populist – Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz?
I mean his campaign is all about – all about – wealth and income inequality and breaking up the incredible concentration of American wealth in the hands of a tiny few. He’s so far left in the Democratic Party that he’s not even actually a member of the Democratic Party. At a time when Democrats are afraid of being called “liberal,” he’s proud to call himself a socialist. He’s running against the Koch Brothers and Cruz is a creature of the Kochs.
So, no contest. Right?
But wait, don’t count Cruz out.
If it’s the job of a good populist to upset the apple cart, rile the establishment, rattle the powers-that-be. Cruz has done more of that in first 28 months in office than Sanders has done in his nearly quarter century in the House and Senate. In fact, Sanders the socialist is probably better liked by the Republican caucus in the U.S. Senate than Ted Cruz – probably much better liked.
Also, if Cruz goes the distance, it will be astride an existing grassroots tea party movement, which was born out of the same economic tumult as Occupy Wall Street, but which has proved a far more powerful, important and lasting movement than Occupy.
The tea party, after all, has a controlling interest in the Republican Party in the biggest Republican state in the nation here in Texas. There is nothing comparable anywhere on the left.
But, I concluded:
Even this populist moment, such as it is, is unlikely to deliver a Bernie Sanders-Ted Cruz battle of the populist opposites in the 2016 general election. But, if it somehow happened, it’s not clear to me which outcome Big Business/Corporate America, would find more unsettling.
My guess is there would be a quick clamor for a self-financed independent candidacy by Michael Bloomberg to save America from the masses, and that would make for a most memorable race – a Boston-born Jew vs. a Brooklyn-born Jew vs. the Canadian-born son of a Cuban immigrant. What a country.
Well, since that was written, a far more populist figure – in Trump – entered the race, Sanders prospects have risen and, it would appear, fallen, and there was no “quick clamor” for a Bloomberg candidacy.
But Bloomberg took the possibility of an independent candidacy extremely seriously – even opening a campaign office in Texas (?!) – and only yesterday quieting the non-existent clamor by announcing he was not going to do it because he couldn’t risk helping elect Trump, or throwing the presidential outcome into the House of Representatives.
From his column – The Risk I will not take – at Bloomberg View explaining his decision:
I’ve always been drawn to impossible challenges, and none today is greater or more important than ending the partisan war in Washington and making government work for the American people — not lobbyists and campaign donors. Bringing about this change will require electing leaders who are more focused on getting results than winning re-election, who have experience building small businesses and creating jobs, who know how to balance budgets and manage large organizations, who aren’t beholden to special interests — and who are honest with the public at every turn. I’m flattered that some think I could provide this kind of leadership.
But when I look at the data, it’s clear to me that if I entered the race, I could not win. I believe I could win a number of diverse states — but not enough to win the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win the presidency.
In a three-way race, it’s unlikely any candidate would win a majority of electoral votes, and then the power to choose the president would be taken out of the hands of the American people and thrown to Congress. The fact is, even if I were to receive the most popular votes and the most electoral votes, victory would be highly unlikely, because most members of Congress would vote for their party’s nominee. Party loyalists in Congress — not the American people or the Electoral College — would determine the next president.
As the race stands now, with Republicans in charge of both Houses, there is a good chance that my candidacy could lead to the election of Donald Trump or Senator Ted Cruz. That is not a risk I can take in good conscience.
I have known Mr. Trump casually for many years, and we have always been on friendly terms. I even agreed to appear on “The Apprentice” — twice. But he has run the most divisive and demagogic presidential campaign I can remember, preying on people’s prejudices and fears. Abraham Lincoln, the father of the Republican Party, appealed to our “better angels.” Trump appeals to our worst impulses.
Threatening to bar foreign Muslims from entering the country is a direct assault on two of the core values that gave rise to our nation: religious tolerance and the separation of church and state. Attacking and promising to deport millions of Mexicans, feigning ignorance of white supremacists, and threatening China and Japan with a trade war are all dangerously wrong, too. These moves would divide us at home and compromise our moral leadership around the world. The end result would be to embolden our enemies, threaten the security of our allies, and put our own men and women in uniform at greater risk.
Senator Cruz’s pandering on immigration may lack Trump’s rhetorical excess, but it is no less extreme. His refusal to oppose banning foreigners based on their religion may be less bombastic than Trump’s position, but it is no less divisive.
Here is the map that Bloomberg’s folks drew up for him. I don’t know. Seems awfully optimistic, with the sworn enemy of guns and the Big Gulp winning in Tennessee and Georgia, and tying Trump in Texas.
But, no matter. He took a clear-eyed look and chose to take a pass.
Here, from Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight, an alternative map.
(T)his scenario does not have Trump winning all that many votes: only 35.5 percent, a figure that coincides with his low favorability ratings among the general population. But that would nonetheless be enough for Trump to win most swing states if Clinton and Bloomberg split the remainder of the vote. Here are the estimates our model produces for the traditionally most competitive states:
But, what is quite remarkable, per the report by Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns at the New York Times, is how methodically Bloomberg had set about contemplating a run.
The decision by Mr. Bloomberg, who served three terms as the mayor of New York, ends months of intensive preparation for a candidacy. Convinced that a restive electorate was crying out for nonpartisan, technocratic government, he instructed his closest aides to set up the machinery for a long-shot billion-dollar campaign that would have subjected his image to a scorching political test.
They covertly assembled several dozen strategists and staff members, conducted polling in 22 states, drafted a website, produced television ads and set up campaign offices in Texas and North Carolina, where the process of gathering petitions to put Mr. Bloomberg’s name on the ballot would have begun in days.
Mr. Bloomberg held extensive talks with Michael G. Mullen, the retired admiral and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about forming an independent ticket. Lawyers for Mr. Bloomberg had completed the process of vetting Mr. Mullen, and all that remained was for Mr. Bloomberg to ask formally that Mr. Mullen serve as his running mate.
Torn between his aspiration and a mountain of data showing that the path for an independent campaign aimed at the political center was slim and narrowing, Mr. Bloomberg, 74, ultimately abandoned what would probably have been his last chance to run for the White House.
The choice of Mullen was also the wrong admiral for Texas4Bloomberg.