New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a potential independent candidate for president, has scheduled a meeting next week with a dozen leading Democrats and Republicans, who will join him in challenging the major-party contenders to spell out their plans for forming a “government of national unity” to end the gridlock in Washington.
Those who will be at the Jan. 7 session at the University of Oklahoma say that if the likely nominees of the two parties do not pledge to “go beyond tokenism” in building an administration that seeks national consensus, they will be prepared to back Bloomberg or someone else in a third-party campaign for president.
Conveners of the meeting include such prominent Democrats as former senators Sam Nunn (Ga.), Charles S. Robb (Va.) and David L. Boren (Okla.), and former presidential candidate Gary Hart. Republican organizers include Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.), former party chairman Bill Brock, former senator John Danforth (Mo.) and former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman.
The list of acceptances suggests that the group could muster the financial and political firepower to make the threat of such a candidacy real. Others who have indicated that they plan to attend the one-day session include William S. Cohen, a former Republican senator from Maine and defense secretary in the Clinton administration; Alan Dixon, a former Democratic senator from Illinois; Bob Graham, a former Democratic senator from Florida; Jim Leach, a former Republican congressman from Iowa; Susan Eisenhower, a political consultant and granddaughter of former president Dwight D. Eisenhower; David Abshire, president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency; and Edward Perkins, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
I have to say, a Bloomberg presidency with people like Bob Graham and Bill Cohen advising him looks really attractive. Sam Nunn’s also great on nuclear issues, even if he’s awful on social ones. I have very little patience for Boren or Hagel, however. But as much combined establishment cred as this grouping has, I wonder how much electoral sway they’ll have. None of these people are really household names, and only two (Bloomberg and Hagel) are currently in office. This seems like an endeavor destined to appeal to people like David Broder (who, appropriately enough, wrote the WaPo news article), and not actual, you know, voters. The last credible independent bid, from Perot, worked because of its populist elements (“giant sucking sound”), not because of Perot’s establishment-pleasing anti-deficit rhetoric. While a Bloomberg run backed by people like this would make the press go nuts (and appeals to anti-populist types like yours truly), I doubt it would actually get a lot of votes.