Wolff's argument boils down to two things. First, Bloomberg is rich, and you have to be rich to run for office. Second, Clinton and the Republicans are engaged in a "race from the center," leaving an opportunity for the sort of centrism that Bloomberg theoretically represents. After all, the millennials love centrism, right? The only thing that has stopped Bloomberg from moving into the White House is the Big Blue Machine. "It's the hegemony of the Democratic party that has heretofore blocked the career of one of the most restless, ambitious and successful men in American politics," Wolff concludes.
Basically ever since Bloomberg was blocked from elected office by the hegemony of hyper-democratic New York City, the Bloomberg-for-president mantra has churned to life like clockwork -- often with the tacit support of Bloomberg's staffers. The Post reported in 2007 that he'd been having "tantalizing discussions with potential supporters." He eventually declined, despite having the advantage of being "a self-financed independent." A source told Time that Bloomberg had "become the Paris Hilton of politics — people love to speculate about him."
That speculation outlasted Paris Hilton. In 2012, Bloomberg for President kicked into gear again, as early as 2010, when the Wall Street Journal reported that "the mayor's closest political advisers ha[ve] privately encouraged the organizers" of a "draft Bloomberg" organization. One group made DraftMichael.com, which has been updated with a new header for 2016. ("Draft X" was the "Ready for X" of four years ago.) It went nowhere.
And here we are again. Despite the argument of Michael Wolff, the idea is no more likely in 2016 than in 2008 or 2012. Perhaps even less.
First of all, the rise of the Super PAC has made being a billionaire candidate less of an advantage. Ted Cruz raised tens of millions of dollars into super PACs his first week on the trail, money which isn't going to the campaign but will still be used for his benefit. In the modern era of presidential politics, you don't need to be a billionaire, you just need to point friendly billionaires to the right place to drop off checks.
Second, the idea that there is a great thirst for centrist politics is the recurring fever dream of wealthy Democrats. Surely, they think, there must be others who embrace business but hold socially moderate positions. And there are. Their names are Hillary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo. (Or, more broadly it seems, they are now called Republicans.)
That's a bit of an overgeneralization because the idea of "centrism" itself is an overgeneralization. What is a "centrist?" Esquire tried to suss out the broad political middle in 2013, ending up with categories that included big clusters of partisans. A study reported by Vox last summer figured that there isn't really much of a moderate middle at all. Vox's Ezra Klein summarized the findings: "What happens ... is that surveys mistake people with diverse political opinions for people with moderate political opinions."
Millennials are a perfect representation of this. Last year, Pew Research found that millennials were less likely to identify with a political party than other generations and held divergent opinions on social issues like marijuana legalization and abortion. Also? They heavily back Democrats.
There exists a group that puts the idea of centrist politics to the test. No Labels is an organization currently run by former senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and former governor Jon Huntsman (R-Utah), who have pretty divergent experiences in the world of cross-partisan activity. Until last fall, Huntsman's colleague was Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who broke with the group after it decided to endorse Cory Gardner's (R) bid for the Senate from Colorado. In the tough year of 2014, the "R" label was perhaps too much for Manchin to ignore.
Political consultant Lanny Davis, an elder in the "we need centrists" movement, argued that No Labels brand of centrism worked. "Any candidate in this year’s midterm races could receive the No Labels Problem Solver Seal of Approval and use it in his or her campaign ads and brochures," he writes. "In the 2014 congressional elections, 33 Democrats and 34 Republicans received the No Labels Problem Solver seal during their campaigns. These included one now-senator-elect, Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado, and one reelected Democratic senator, Mark Warner of Virginia."
Every one of those Problem Solvers lost.
"Draft Bloomberg" isn't about Bloomberg. He's just a guy who represents the Platonic ideal of "centrism" (recognizing how gauzy that ideal actually is) and who has been a Republican and a Democrat and an independent. Wolff -- who, we should mention, usually writes about media -- picked the lowest-hanging fruit on the great imaginary tree.
One last story. When Bloomberg was mentioned as a candidate in 2012, one of the biggest efforts he ended up being involved in was via a group called Americans Elect. Americans Elect figured that it could raise money to put a third party candidate on the ballot and held online polling -- with Bloomberg in the mix -- to identify who it should be. Centrist-par-excellence Thomas Friedman loved the idea: "What Amazon.com did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, what the iPod did to music, what drugstore.com did to pharmacies, Americans Elect plans to do to the two-party duopoly that has dominated American political life. ... Watch out."
Americans Elect never finalized a candidate. It was Webvan. It was the Zune. In part, that's because people are content to vote for a partisan candidate and -- New York Democrats aside -- have no interest in Michael Bloomberg being their president. The good news was that, after Americans Elect fell apart, there was a new group ready to pick up the reins. "[T]here is a new political home available to former Americans Elect supporters across the country," an early article crowed. "It’s called No Labels, and its already shaking up the American political system."
Correction: This article originally included three losing candidates that had not received the No Labels seal.