By Alexander Bolton - 01-29-16 06:00 AM EST
Senate Democrats say former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has almost no chance of winning the presidency if he mounts an independent run and would likely only act as a spoiler.
Democratic lawmakers interviewed on the prospect of a Bloomberg campaign praise his business acumen and judgment and add in the same breath that a White House bid would be a wasteful blunder.
“I just don’t know how practical it is and how realistic it is. With every day that passes it gets more and more difficult to even accomplish it effectively,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who has campaigned in Iowa for Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
She said Bloomberg would be “more of spoiler” than a candidate with a realistic shot of victory.
“He would split the ‘We want a New York billionaire vote,’” she quipped with a laugh.
Some Democrats are worried about a reprise of the 1992 presidential election, when billionaire businessman Ross Perot won 19 percent of the popular vote, and derailed the campaign of incumbent President George H.W. Bush who was seen as an early favorite. Bill Clinton won with 43 percent of the vote.
Democrats don’t want to see the flipped scenario where a billionaire businessman would this time tip the race away from Hillary Clinton, who is now seen as the favorite because of the growing clout of Hispanic voters and the shifting electoral map.
A new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows Bloomberg’s entry into the race would cut Clinton’s lead over Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump from 10 percentage points to six.
“I’ve been arond long enough to remember third-party candidates. I remember when [former Illinois Republican Rep. John] Anderson ran in 1980 and he got less than 10 percent of the vote. I remember when Ross Perot ran. I don’t care how much money you have, running a third party candidacy is very challenging,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who has campaigned for Clinton in New Hampshire.
“I can’t imagine that Bloomberg is going to waste his money or his time if there’s somebody there he thinks is going to be a good president and Hillary is going to be a good president,” she added.
A recent Morning Consult poll showed that Bloomberg has only 13 percent support in a three-way match against Trump and Clinton. Another Morning Consult survey showed him attracting 12 percent in a race against Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination.
Sources close to Bloomberg say the most likely scenario for him to get into the race would be if Trump or conservative Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the Republican nomination and Sanders, a self-described socialist, won the Democratic nod.
But even if Clinton wins the Democratic primary, Bloomberg might still run if she looks weak enough to give him an opening for success. Democrats see Clinton as less honest and trustworthy than Sanders, a problem that could dog her in the general election.
He will likely have to make a decision before the end of March in order to get his name on the ballot in all 50 states. The outcomes of the Democratic and Republican primary fights may not be known at that time.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) warned that Bloomberg could wind up putting Trump or Cruz in the White House by splitting centrist voters with Clinton.
“It’s not beyond imagining that he could get in and have an effect on the race,” he said.
Political pundits predict Bloomberg would peel votes away from Clinton. One Senate Republican speculated that he might even be able to carry New York state — an unlikely possibility but one that would prove devastating to Democratic chances of winning.
“Maybe that would be a reason not to get in if you were him,” Whitehouse said.
“It’s very hard to run a third-party campaign as anything other than a spoiler,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Bloomberg is widely seen as a pragmatic centrist. He was a longtime registered Democrat who switched his party affiliation to Republican before running to become mayor of New York. He left the GOP to become an independent before running for a third mayoral term.
But centrist Democrats aren’t eager to see Bloomberg on the ballot, noting his odds of winning are slim.
“Somebody coming in as a third party has a very difficult challenge,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), a leading Democratic centrist. “He’s not been known to make a lot of unwise decisions. He’s been known to make pretty good decisions. I think he’ll evaluate it pretty well.”
Bloomberg looked seriously at running for president in 2008 and mulled it again in 2012 but decided both times to stay out.
“The polling I’ve looked at suggests he has a pretty low ceiling,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) of Bloomberg’s potential support.