Michael Bloomberg and Third Party Dreams

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Thomas Friedman’s Sunday Times column about the prospects for a third-party candidate has drawn a good deal of blogospheric scoffing, but Nate Silver says not so fast–that the scenario is more viable than many people think:

So will Mr. Friedman see his dream candidate? Probably not. But if Mr. Friedman’s prediction is expressed too confidently, those who are critiquing him are making too much of a data set — the performance of third-party candidates in recent Presidential elections — that contains too few salient examples. Presidential elections are rare things to begin with, and it’s been rarer still to have a set of circumstances that are potentially so conducive to an independent bid.

The question is who might make such a run in 2012. Donald Trump is having some fun right now, but it’s pretty tough to imagine him as a serious candidate. None of the independents or “mavericks” of the Senate fit the bill. (Hard to see Joe Lieberman giving it another shot.)

The obvious candidate is Michael Bloomberg, whose admirers often tout him as a potential White House material. But I was struck by how firmly Bloomberg’s close friend (and investment manager) Steve Rattner seemed to dismiss the idea on “Morning Joe” a couple of days ago:

Michael Bloomberg made a lot of his money–all of his money on data–he’s a very data-driven guy. And he’s looked at the data and he… [thinks that] in a best case you get a plurality, you’re thrown into the House of Representatives and you don’t have anybody there to vote for you…

But even before you get that–he’s looked back at history, he’s studied all these third-party candidates candidates. … whether it’s John Anderson or Ross Perot or Teddy Roosevelt, and nobody has ever really gotten anywhere in the third party business. And he’s not gonna start unless somebody convinces him he’s missing something.

Bloomberg may be the the only potential savior of third-party cheerleaders. But if Rattner’s right, he’s just not interested.

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