PRIMARY CALNDAR POLLING WHO’S WINNING FACT CHCKS ISSUS CAMPAIGN MONY
Bloomberg, Sensing an Opening,
Revisits a Potential White House Run
By ALEXANDER BURNS and MAGGIE HABERMAN JAN. 23, 2016
Michael R. Bloomberg has instructed advisers to draw up plans for a potential
independent campaign in this year’s presidential race. His advisers and
associates said he was galled by Donald J. Trump’s dominance of the
Republican field, and troubled by Hillary Clinton’s stumbles and the rise of
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on the Democratic side.
Mr. Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, has in the
past contemplated running for the White House on a third-party ticket, but
always concluded he could not win. A confluence of unlikely events in the 2016
election, however, has given new impetus to his presidential aspirations.
Mr. Bloomberg, 73, has already taken concrete steps toward a possible
campaign, and has indicated to friends and allies that he would be willing to
spend at least $1 billion of his fortune on it, according to people briefed on his
deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not
authorized to discuss his plans. He has set a deadline for making a final
decision in early March, the latest point at which advisers believe Mr.
Bloomberg could enter the race and still qualify to appear as an independent
candidate on the ballot in all 50 states.
He has retained a consultant to help him explore getting his name on
those ballots, and his aides have done a detailed study of past third-party bids.
Mr. Bloomberg commissioned a poll in December to see how he might fare
against Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, and he intends to conduct another round
of polling after the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9 to gauge whether there
is indeed an opening for him, according to two people familiar with his
His aides have sketched out a version of a campaign plan that would have
the former mayor, a low-key and cerebral personality, give a series of detailed
policy speeches backed by an intense television advertising campaign. The ads
would introduce him to voters around the country as a technocratic problemsolver
and self-made businessman who understands the economy and who
built a bipartisan administration in New York.
Mr. Bloomberg would face daunting and perhaps insurmountable
obstacles in a presidential campaign: No independent candidate has ever been
elected to the White House, and Mr. Bloomberg’s close Wall Street ties and
liberal social views, including his strong support for abortion rights and gun
control, could repel voters on the left and right.
But his possible candidacy also underscores the volatility of a presidential
race that could be thrown into further turmoil by a wild-card candidate like
If Republicans were to nominate Mr. Trump or Senator Ted Cruz of Texas,
a hard-line conservative, and Democrats chose Mr. Sanders, Mr. Bloomberg —
who changed his party affiliation to independent in 2007 — has told allies he
would be likely to run.
Edward G. Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania and a past
Democratic National Committee chairman, said he believed Mr. Bloomberg
could compete in the race if activist candidates on the left and right prevailed
in the party primaries.
“Mike Bloomberg for president rests on the not-impossible but somewhat
unlikely circumstance of either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz versus Bernie
Sanders,” said Mr. Rendell, a close ally of Mrs. Clinton’s who is also a friend of
Mr. Bloomberg’s. “If Hillary wins the nomination, Hillary is mainstream
enough that Mike would have no chance, and Mike’s not going to go on a
In a three-way race featuring Mr. Sanders and Mr. Bloomberg, Mr.
Rendell said he might back the former New York mayor.
“As a lifelong Democrat, as a former party chairman, it would be very hard
for me to do that,” he said. “But I would certainly take a look at it —
Mr. Bloomberg declined to comment on his interest in the 2016 race, and
most of his associates would speak only on the condition that they not be
named. Mr. Bloomberg is irked by the perception that he has toyed too often
with running for national office, according to several associates, and is said to
be wary of another public flirtation.
At the same time, these associates said, he has grown more frustrated
with what he sees a race gone haywire. A longtime critic of partisan primary
elections, Mr. Bloomberg has lamented what he considers Mrs. Clinton’s lurch
to the left in her contest against Mr. Sanders, especially her criticism of charter
schools and other education reforms that he pushed as mayor and has
continued to support since leaving office.
At a dinner party late last fall at the home of Roger C. Altman, an
investment banker and former deputy Treasury secretary, Mr. Bloomberg
delivered a piquant assessment of Mrs. Clinton as a presidential candidate.
In the presence of Mr. Altman, a longtime supporter of Mrs. Clinton and
her husband, former President Bill Clinton, Mr. Bloomberg described her as a
flawed politician, shadowed by questions about her honesty and the
continuing investigation into her email practices as secretary of state,
according to two people in attendance.
The outcome of that investigation, Mr. Bloomberg said, was anyone’s
Setting a March deadline for making a decision allows Mr. Bloomberg to
see how Mrs. Clinton and the more mainstream Republican candidates fare in
the early primaries. And because of his vast wealth, there is no downside in
laying the groundwork for a possible campaign, even if he ultimately decides
Even a victory by Mrs. Clinton in the Democratic primaries might not
preclude a bid by Mr. Bloomberg, his associates said, if he believed she had
been gravely weakened by the contest.
Mr. Bloomberg has maintained a constructive relationship with the
Clintons over the years, working closely with Mrs. Clinton during her tenure in
the Senate and at one point even suggesting that she run to succeed him as
One adviser said that Mr. Bloomberg’s preparations reflected the
unsettled state of the race, and the perception that Mrs. Clinton was flagging
against Mr. Sanders.
Mr. Bloomberg, this adviser said, believes voters want “a nonideological,
bipartisan, results-oriented vision” that the early primary favorites have not
“This isn’t about Hillary Clinton,” the adviser said in an email. “The fact is
Hillary Clinton is behind in Iowa and New Hampshire. That should scare a lot
of people — and it does.” (Public polls have shown Mr. Sanders leading in New
Hampshire, a close race in Iowa and Mrs. Clinton with a solid lead nationally.)
Mrs. Clinton’s campaign declined to comment on Mr. Bloomberg’s
interest in the race. But on a campaign conference call with supporters on
Saturday, Jennifer Palmieri, a top Clinton aide, told allies that she believed
Mr. Bloomberg would only run if Mr. Sanders won the nomination, and that
the Clinton camp intended to foreclose that possibility.
Since the 2012 election, Mr. Bloomberg has repeatedly mused at private
events about Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign as a cautionary tale for
candidates from the business world. Mr. Romney assembled an impressive
record as a private equity investor before serving as governor of
Massachusetts; the Obama campaign branded him as a heartless corporate
Social acquaintances and political and business leaders said they had been
surprised to find their encouraging remarks about a possible 2016 campaign
answered with intense seriousness by Mr. Bloomberg, who has stressed that he
would run if he saw a path to victory.
Mr. Bloomberg’s brain trust has examined previous third-party efforts
dating to Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, giving closest attention to the
campaigns of John Anderson in 1980 and H. Ross Perot in 1992.
It is unclear whether Mr. Bloomberg would be more likely to draw voters’
support from a Democrat, like Mr. Sanders or Mrs. Clinton, or a conservative
While Mr. Bloomberg supports many of the Democratic Party’s social
policies, he has been a fierce defender of the financial services industry, which
is unpopular with many liberals, and enacted aggressive policing policies in
New York City that are anathema to left-leaning voters.
And when he first ran for mayor in 2001, he did so as a Republican. But
he has also poured energy and money into advocating policies that
conservative Republicans detest, most notably gun control and immigration
Mr. Bloomberg has seen Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric on immigration
as especially distasteful. But in an interview in Iowa on Saturday, Mr. Trump
said he “would love the competition” of having Mr. Bloomberg in the race, and
alluded to their different business backgrounds and divergent policy views.
“He’s the opposite of me in many ways,” Mr. Trump said. “Opposite on guns,
opposite on numerous issues.”
A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton declined to comment on Mr. Bloomberg’s
interest in the race and his comments about her campaign.
Alan Patricof, a financier and longtime donor to the Clintons who is also
friendly with Mr. Bloomberg, said it would be “a terrible thing” for the
Democratic Party’s prospects of winning the White House if the former mayor
ran as an independent.
“If it was President Trump or President Bloomberg, I’d certainly rather
have President Bloomberg,” Mr. Patricof said. “But it certainly can’t help the
Some Republicans are less certain of the effect Mr. Bloomberg would have
on the race. In swing states like Ohio and Virginia, suburban moderates who
recoil from certain liberal policies might be more likely to support Mr.
Bloomberg than a candidate like Mr. Trump or Mr. Cruz.
Representative Daniel M. Donovan Jr., a New York Republican who is a
friend and golfing partner of Mr. Bloomberg’s, said that many voters “who
aren’t totally satisfied with any of the people who are running right now, would
welcome a Mike Bloomberg candidacy.”
Mr. Donovan said he could consider supporting Mr. Bloomberg,
depending on how the rest of the race develops.
“He governed more in pragmatic ways than in ideals,” Mr. Donovan said,
adding, “That may be different from some of the folks, like Senator Cruz, who
are apparently doing well among primary voters.”
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A version of this article appears in print on January 24, 2016, on page A1 of the New York edition
with the headline: Bloomberg Is Considering 3rdParty Bid.
© 2016 The New York Times Company