Opinion

Michael A. Cohen

Bloomberg possible in theory rather than fact

Former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg.

Andrew Burton/Getty Images/File 2013

Former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg.

One of the major takeaways from Tuesday night’s results in the New Hampshire primary is that it was a good night for Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York who is considering an independent presidential bid.

Allow me to offer a note of caution on this. First, it’s highly doubtful that Bloomberg will decide to run. The only likely scenario where this could happen is if the nominees appear to be Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, an outcome that looks increasingly likely on the GOP side and still a longshot on the Democratic side.

But even if Bloomberg does choose to run, it’s far from clear that he will do well. In fact, the outcome likely would be the opposite.

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Indeed, Bloomberg is a unique candidate, in that he probably alienates more single-issue voters — from both sides of the aisle — than any other politician in America.

He is pro-abortion-rights, pro-gun control (and has become the face of the gun control movement), pro-immigration, pro-same sex marriage, anti-Islamaphobia, and pro-tolerance. With a profile like that, it’s hard to imagine how he could win a single predominately red state.

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Now granted, in a three-way race, he could take enough Democratic votes to succeed, but then he runs into his other problem — how is the guy who is well-known for stop-and-frisk policies as mayor of New York, which disproportionately affected minority New Yorkers, going to win over black and Hispanic voters nationwide? How would Bloomberg, who is a billionaire plutocrat, a booster of New York’s financial community, and a big fan of Wall Street, win over the voters who have been gravitating to populist candidates like Sanders and, the people’s billionaire, Trump?

In a campaign in which voters are responding to anger at the status quo and to grandiose promises from Trump to “Make America Great Again,’’ or exhortations from Sanders to start a political revolution, how does a technocratic moderate from New York, with no logical political base, win a presidential election? If anything, the profile of an effective third-party candidate would be someone like Trump, a populist who has never been involved in politics, pledging to shake up the system. That’s not Bloomberg.

As mayor of New York, Bloomberg was primarily a problem solver and decidedly nonideological. He wasn’t the kind of candidate who would get voters’ juices flowing by his stirring oratory. He was a manager, a guy with a record of governmental executive achievement — the opposite of the men who won the New Hampshire primary, particularly in comparison to the key campaign themes of their opponents. To be honest, he’d probably be a very good president. But he’d have to get there first.

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Historically, voters have, over the years, flirted with a third-party candidate and then, inevitably, voted for one of the two-party nominees. Today, in a highly polarized environment, as Democrats and Republicans have increasingly become firmly ensconced in their political homes, and there are fewer swing voters, it’s hard to imagine a third-party candidate who can undo those party allegiances. It’s even harder to imagine that Mike Bloomberg is that guy.

Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.
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