19 June 2007


It takes a lot of money to run a Presidential campaign. In 2000, Bush raised and spent a little under two hundred million dollars; Gore only got 150 million (Center for Responsive Politics). In 2004, each of the major candidates raised and spent between three and four hundred million dollars. For the 2008 race, so far Clinton has raised the most money (36 million, ibid.) and Obama is next (Romney is a close third). Mr. Clinton personally raises one hundred thousand dollars a night for his wife's campaign (New York Times). Each of the major candidates will likely (need to) raise at least half a million dollars by the general election.

Of course, all presidential candidates are reasonably affluent. Romney is the richest, with between 190 and 250 million dollars to his name, and Clinton is next, with 10 to 50 million dollars, mostly from her husband's lecture circuit (CBS News). Campaign finance laws restrict the amount of money you or I may donate to any given candidate (for 2008, individuals may not donate more than $2,300 per candidate per election), but politicians are allowed to spend as much of their own money as they want.

Which leads, of course, to Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City. Today he announced, while campaigning in California, that he has changed his party affiliation from Republican to Independent (he was a Democrat before running for mayor). Almost certainly he will run for President; he certainly enjoys stoking that fire. But without a major party to provide funding and machinery, does he stand a chance? To find a third-party candidate who did better than Ross Perot (close to 20% in 1992, splitting the right and assuring Clinton a win), you have to go all the way back to Roosevelt in 1912; Nader never cracked 5% (New York Times). Except that Bloomberg is Forbes' 44th richest American, with 5.5 billion dollars (Wikipedia). He will likely run on the Independence ticket --- the same one that sponsored Ross Perot, and on whose ticket he ran (along with the GOP endorsement) for mayor. He supports abortion rights and gay marriage, and is staunchly pro-business. And, it's rumored, he has already set aside $1 billion for a presidential campaign (ibid.). This is easily enough to be competitive.

Bloomberg is not, of course, my favorite of the presidential candidates, but I certainly wouldn't mind him in the White House. I'm amused by what his friend George Stephanopoulos said about his potential run (ibid.; Stephanopolous in italics):

1. 70% of the nation would need to feel as though the country is moving in the wrong direction. Check.
2. Both nominees would need to have disapproval ratings in the 40% range. Clinton and Romney.
3. 40% of the country would need to be open to a third party candidate. Likely?
4. 20-25% of the country would need to be "open to Mike Bloomberg." Time will tell.

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