Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bobbleheads on the Bloomberg run

Discussion of Bloomberg's decision to quit the Republican Party is predictably dire: will it help or hurt Hilary or Rudy?

Nobody gives Bloomberg a serious chance of winning the Presidency. I think that this is a mistake, Bloomberg probably has at least as good a chance of winning as the official Republican nominee.

Historically a third party run tends to hurt the administration's party. This was certainly the case with the first Perot and Nader runs which cost Bush re-election and Gore the Presidency. Florida would not have been close if Nader had not run.

Republicans are trying to spin a Bloomberg run as bad for the Democrats. I don't think this claim holds water. The Democratic base is solidly behind the party first and foremost. Whether the ticket is Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton they will receive the full backing of the left and much of the center. The Nader experience is fresh in people's minds and the leftwing blogosphere will be solidly behind the candidate.

A third party candidate has an effect only if an election is extreemly close (2000) or it exposes a fault line in one of the major parties. In this case Bloomberg is a Republican who has governed as a Republican and is offering solidly Republican policies on everything apart from social issues and (we presume) civil liberties and Iraq.

Unless the Republican nominee is Hagel or some other war opponent the Republican nominee will be yoked to the success or failure of the war in Iraq. Unless there is a sudden change in the popularity of the war that means that Bloomberg and the Republican nominee will be on opposite sides of two if not three of the major rifts within the conservative base: authoritarianism, social conservatism, Iraq.

Bloomberg's run makes it even more likely that the Republican nominee will not be Giuliani. Far more New Yorkers rate Bloomberg as a success than Rudy. Far more people who have worked with Bloomberg would be prepared to work with him again. McCain's campaign is all but extinct which means that the most likely nominees are Thompson or Romney.

Either way I think that it much more likely that Republicans are going to be prepared to make a protest vote than Democrats. Bloomberg will draw votes from both sides but more votes from Republicans than Democrats. For Republicans the election will be a vote on the future of the Republican party, will it continue to be the party of the 'religious right' and the Rovian wedge issue?

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