Powell-Bloomberg '08

This isn't Aspen-specific, so I thought I'd cross-post it from the Ideas Festival blog:

One last point on Colin Powell: He may be self-serving and strategically incoherent, but he remains an eloquent and attractive figure, and a popular one. Obviously he isn't going to run for President, but if he did - well, he's pretty much the only person I could imagine winning the '08 election as a third-party candidate. I've been pretty skeptical of the Michael Bloomberg bubble, mainly because the space for a centrist, domestic-policy Mr. Fix-It is going to be pretty small in a year when the Democrats are so energized. But the space for a centrist, foreign-policy Mr. Fix-It who's also one of the most popular public figures in America (undeservedly, I think, but that doesn't matter much) is much, much bigger. He could run an Eisenhower in '52 campaign, campaigning on his personal celebrity and international experience - which is extensive enough to easily overshadow all his potential rivals - and promising (without necessarily offering specifics) to end an unpopular war. (He certainly wouldn't have any trouble raising money, whether he paired up with Bloomberg or not.) True, the Eisenhower parallel is imperfect: It's not as if Ike was in the Truman White House when the Korean War broke out, for one thing, and running Gulf War I isn't quite the same as being Supreme Allied Commander. And in the crucible of a campaign, the failures that have already tarnished Powell among the commentariat would become the stuff of national debate, knocking his approval ratings down from their current outrageous high. But as a third-party candidate, he wouldn't need an Ike-ish landslide. He need, say, 35-40 percent of the vote - and that would be within reach.

As I said, he clearly isn't going to do it. But if he did, he might just win.