Mike Bloomberg has called the President of the United States a grifter and a menace, his allies in Congress spineless sell-outs running roughshod over the Constitution. This year, he ripped up his voter registration to become a Democrat and gave $80 million to help the party retake the House.
And now he is flirting with running for President again, portraying early moves as borne more out of a sense of duty to the republic than ambition.
But if Bloomberg really wants to put the billion or so he can spend on a presidential run to good use, he will turn in his new party membership, re-register as a Republican, and do battle with Trump in the GOP primary, not the Democratic one.
Bloomberg is going to be an odd fit for Democratic primary voters, no matter how much he spends. Hizzoner combines the liberal social views of a wealthy Manhattanite (pro-gay rights, anti-gun, pro-charter school and so on) with the economic views of, well, a wealthy Manhattanite (pro-immigration, pro-trade, pro-corporation), at a time when the party is powered by a young, diverse and populist cohort and trying to figure out how to regain its appeal among lunch-bucket voters in the Heartland.
But on the Republican side, there is a real need for the kind of alternative Bloomberg can provide. The last two years have seen the GOP morph into the Party of Trump, moving away from its commitment to free markets and an economy driven by market needs to one driven by fealty to the President.
Alliances that provided nearly a century of security and prosperity have been shredded. Adherence to the rule of law, human decency, civic norms and transparency have been replaced with a cult of personality and a pervasive sense of corruption not seen since the days of Teapot Dome.
With the possible exception of John Kasich or Ben Sasse, no serious Republican has yet stepped forward to make this argument, because, well, it’s Donald Trump we are talking about. He hurls insults like a playground prodigy, and, based on his approval ratings, Republican voters appear to love him for it.
But approval ratings can be a tricky thing once voters are given a choice. Hillary Clinton was on a glide path to the Democratic nomination in 2016 until Bernie Sanders provided people an alternative. Pat Buchanan ran as a not-Bush in 1992 and nipped at the sitting President’s heels across 50 states.
Bloomberg’s money — he’s a true self-made billionaire, unlike the President — has left him unafraid of almost anyone and certainly of someone who once hawked vitamins on TV and sold steaks through the mail. He could put that money to good use by reminding rank-and-file Republican voters who they were before 2016.
Bloomberg gave as a reason for his party switch that the GOP was out of step on his issues: on climate change, gay marriage and guns. This is true, but on other issues he is still a lot closer to the GOP mean than he is the Democratic one, in particular on public safety (to this day, he stands by stop-and-frisk policing), the virtues of the free market and respect for the rule of law, never mind #MeToo and money in politics.
It is almost inconceivable that Mike Bloomberg would win, and go on to be the Republican nominee. He is surely unwilling to stoop to Trump’s level to win over his base.
But it is almost inconceivable that he would win the Democratic nomination either. Far more likely is that his money weakens the eventual Democratic nominee. Bloomberg says that Trump must be stopped at all costs; far better, in that case, that his dollars and his candidacy go to weaken the eventual Republican one.