Could Mike Bloomberg Really Propel Sarah Palin to the Presidency?

The evidence for and against

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This week, John Heilemann's cover story in New York magazine offers an elaborately contrived fantasy scenario in which Sarah Palin runs for president in 2012 and successfully unseats Barack Obama. Heilemann is no political novice and he unfolds, in almost 6,000 words, the most detailed road map to date of how Palin could ascend to the presidency. How does she do it? To make a long story short: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will run as a third-party candidate, he'll split the Democratic vote and deliver the presidency to the most likely Republican nominee (in Heilemann's world, Sarah Palin).

A Bloomberg presidential bid is arguably the most far-fetched prediction in Heilemann's piece. His explanation for such a scenario goes as follows:

Anyone whose memory isn’t terminally addled will recall that Bloomberg embarked on a similar voyage three years ago, but ultimately decided that 2008 was not the year for him to make a bootleg scramble for the White House. In no small part, Bloomberg reached that conclusion because he regarded Obama and McCain more or less as centrists, too close to his own worldview and governing philosophy to leave enough running room for him. A lot has changed since then, however—from Obama’s dramatic loss of support among independent voters and the equally striking disaffection he has engendered in the business community to the Republicans’ collective lurch into right-wing nihilism. “The goalposts are much wider now than four years ago,” says the Bloomberg intimate.

What hasn’t changed is that Bloomberg is surrounded by people urging him to run. (A recent column in the Times by Tom Friedman, advocating a pro-business, pro-green, pro-pragmatism third party, was seen by many in Bloomie’s circle as a trial balloon.) ...One scenario, most likely if the economy suffers a double-dip recession, is that the nation would be so desperate for capable economic management that Bloomberg would be able to overcome his vulnerabilities—his short-Jewish-unmarried-plutocratness—and find himself deposited in the Oval Office.

Is Heilemann's piece plausible? Here's what pundits are saying around the Web:

Has she reached her ceiling? Her numbers haven't gone up -- either nationally or in mock-2012 races -- since the 2008 election. In fact, in the first Zogby poll after the '08 election, she held a 6% lead over Mitt Romney and was the top choice among Republicans. But that's been her high watermark.
And one month after the election, she was the most popular Republican, as well, and she still often is, but that hasn't changed her numbers in hypothetical elections. A million Facebook posts, rallies, and tweets later and, fundamentally, she's still where she was just after the 2008 election.
  • Here's the Biggest Problem: Bloomberg Will Never Run, writes Bloomberg biographer Joyce Purnick at The New York Daily News:

Precisely because he can make it here, he could not make it anywhere. And Bloomberg, who made his fortune coolly analyzing data, knows it.

What works on Broadway bombs in most of America. We New Yorkers are a peculiarly pragmatic folk. Despite his dyspeptic personality and term limits shenanigans, Bloomberg, 68, has been a strong, independent mayor. That's enough for us. But: There is us and there is them. ...

As The Times reported last week, hundreds of candidates around the country this season are happily demonizing Wall Street, New York City or both... Talk about a mismatch! New York's matter-of-fact mayor does not tap into the frustration that is gnawing at today's angry American.

  • Either Way, Palin Can't Win: The Tea Party Is Too Toxic, writes Tim Heffernan at Esquire:
Palin is caught in a Catch-22: if the Tea Party remains a distinct and passionate movement, she will, having tied her identity to it, remain unpalatable to the majority of voters. And if the Tea Party dissipates, then she loses her base. Either way, it does not make for a comfortable place from which to launch a presidential bid. And Palin has proven herself time and again unwilling to engage in uncomfortable realities.

I could be very, very wrong, of course; in particular, a united Republican caucus policy of demonizing the president to mask its own refusal to do its job might render any internecine divides moot. ... But I tend to put my faith in the limited patience and memory of the average voter.
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