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Why We Should Take Mike Bloomberg Seriously This Time

He’s always been serious about running — if the two major parties lose their minds. Maybe they will!

Posted on January 23, 2016, at 3:55 p.m. ET

Hillary Clinton and Mike Bloomberg with the Dutch Crown Prince and Princess in 2009.
Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Hillary Clinton and Mike Bloomberg with the Dutch Crown Prince and Princess in 2009.

Anonymous aides to Mike Bloomberg are floating the idea that he might run for president. Again.

This is more of the same — more of the attention-grabbing, low-cost fake campaigning that we saw from Bloomberg's aides in 2008 and, a bit, in 2012. But that's no reason to dismiss it.

Bloomberg's thinking about running for president has always been, like the man, unromantic and pragmatic. And his presidential plans have never been driven by anything hopey or changey. He'll run if and only if the two major parties totally screw things up for themselves.

Kevin Sheekey (also known as Anonymous Bloomberg Aide Number One) laid out this logic for me on the record for a piece I wrote in the New Republic* in 2006.

"If John McCain gets beaten to the right — which is possible in a conservative Republican primary — and if Democrats elect someone through a primary who Democrats generally view as unelectable, there's a large segment of the American electorate that is looking for something different," Sheekey told me back then.

An anonymous aide confirmed this general outline of affairs still holds to me via email this morning.

The specific dream in 2008: progressive populist John Edwards versus conservative populist Mike Huckabee, two candidates rooted in — among other things — the white working-class politics that have defined the early 2016 campaign. Both, heading into Iowa, looked like they had a shot.

Most states allocate their electors on a winner-take-all model, so the path to victory requires a mere plurality. With Edwards and Huckabee speaking in the same accent to the same people, there was a path.

There were hints of a similar plan in 2012: "If Perry's the nominee," said NBC's Chuck Todd that September, "I think there's going to be be a serious effort of some sort of moderate Republican linking up with a conservative Democrat of trying to run in some sort of like, 'Let's throw all the bums out — let's crash the party."

And so here we go again. The Times piece, co-bylined by longtime Bloomberg chronicler Maggie Haberman, lays it out this way: "If Republicans were to nominate Mr. Trump or Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a hard-line conservative, and Democrats chose Mr. Sanders, Mr. Bloomberg … has told allies he would be likely to run."

Haberman later tweeted:

Likeliest scenario that would prompt Bloomberg to run is Sanders v Trump/Cruz

There's not a whole lot more to say. Bloomberg has reportedly set himself a deadline of March. If the parties nominate Trump and Sanders, there's obviously a big lane up the middle — though it's not clear that what America wants is a purebred son of Wall Street with a reputation capable administrator. Maybe! Though that lane would theoretically be open to someone who came from, and could speak to, the politics of a younger, more diverse America than will come naturally to any of those three.

In any event, I emailed Sheekey this morning to pick up our long conversation about a possible Bloomberg White House.

"Was thinking about writing that Mike was always ready to run if gop nominated a joke candidate," I emailed. "Does that make sense?"

"Yes and no," Sheekey replied.

He declined to elaborate.

*The New Republic column is no longer available on their website; I also quoted it in a column in the New York Daily News, which is also unlinked. Thank God for Free Republic.