Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire technology and media titan and former mayor of New York, announced today that he will not be launching an independent bid for president in an op-ed at his media company's opinion site, Bloomberg View.
He more or less concedes in the piece that he wants to run, but insists that he does not want to run the risk of splitting the liberal and moderate vote with Hillary Clinton and electing Donald Trump or Ted Cruz:
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.
Bloomberg has long more or less openly lusted after the White House, and a small but noisy army of political consultants have long more or less openly lusted after the billion dollars Bloomberg has told people he would be willing to spend on a plausible campaign. The problem is that Bloomberg has never been willing to take the plunge and spend the billion dollars on a campaign that looks doomed to fail.
And with Clinton appearing to be in command of the Democratic Party primary, a Bloomberg independent bid looks decidedly doomed. At best he could hope to win 10 to 15 percent of the vote in a way that dooms Clinton and puts a Republican in the White House — a massive setback for Bloomberg's key issues — and at worst he'd be utterly humiliated, reduced to so few votes that he couldn't even play a spoiler role.
Bloomberg's problem: Not many people agree with Bloomberg
Michael Bloomberg reflects a strain of politics that achieves substantial success in state and local government, primarily in the northeastern United States. Not coincidentally, Bloomberg himself achieved substantial success in state and local government in the northeastern United States.
The essence of this kind of politics is that the highly ideological modern conservative movement is extremely weak in the northeastern United States, making it generally impossible for conventional conservative politicians to win here. At the same time, many Northeasterners share the natural human inclination to prefer lower taxes over higher taxes. And precisely because the conservative movement is so weak, the tendency is for interest groups affiliated with the Democratic Party to push the envelope in their demands — creating a political space for politicians like Bloomberg or Charlie Baker or Larry Hogan who push back on those demands.
But in a broader national context, none of this works. The conservative movement is a strong and vibrant force in national politics, and left-wing interest groups are relatively weak inside the Democratic Party.
There are certainly people out there who would prefer a Bloomberg-style politics to mainstream Democratic politics, but there aren't a very large number of them and at the end of the day most of them are happy to vote for the Democratic nominee. Indeed, you can see in Bloomberg's column that he himself is just going to vote for the Democrat because in a national context his differences with Hillary Clinton simply aren't that large.