Michael Bloomberg confirmed to the Financial Times on Monday that, yes, he was considering a presidential run. "I find the level of discourse and discussion distressingly banal and an outrage and an insult to the voters," Bloomberg told the paper in the first instance on record of Donald Trump being called "banal."
It is funny to think of a presidential race featuring a guy from Manhattan, a guy from Queens and a guy from Brooklyn. Granted the Manhattan guy is Bloomberg who is actually from Boston, and granted the guy from Brooklyn lives in Vermont, and granted the guy from Queens now also lives in Manhattan -- but there's something perfect about the idea. Bernie Sanders's gruff Brooklyn socialism battles Donald Trump's appropriated Queens blue-collar roughness, facing off against the polished persona of Michael Bloomberg, the guy who wouldn't move into the New York City mayor's mansion -- a freestanding house in the middle of a beautiful park -- because he would rather stay in his expansive Upper East Side townhouse.
If the election were today, as the saying goes, Michael Bloomberg would not be elected president. Michael Bloomberg would probably not win a state, including the state of New York. Quinnipiac University asked about this last week, finding that Bloomberg came in third in hypothetical match-ups against Sanders and Trump and Sanders and Ted Cruz. He did slightly better among Republicans than Democrats against Trump -- but didn't come close to winning.
Not that this matters! More than half of the people surveyed told Quinnipiac that they hadn't heard enough about Bloomberg to have an opinion of him, a pretty staggering number for a guy who 1) owns a magazine and 2) was mayor of the largest city in the country for 12 years. But still: People don't know him. So asking how this unknown person would fare against Bernie Sanders (who is still unknown to a fifth of Americans) and Donald Trump is a bit iffy.
Clearly, Michael Bloomberg thinks that he might actually win if he were to run. And, as the Financial Times reminds us, no one thought Donald Trump would win either. (As of writing, of course, he hasn't won anything, but we shall see.)
But Bloomberg's motivating principle is that he knows better than you. He knew better than the people he asked to watch over the Bloomberg media empire while he was mayor, cleaning house and upending the organization's newly created politics site. He knew better than the people who opposed his various efforts to fight obesity in New York City, including the infamous ban on large sodas (which is not in effect, FYI). He knew better than the term limits placed on mayors in the city of New York, convincing the city council to allow him to run for a third term despite those limits, a third term that he won by a surprisingly narrow margin. (Why'd the city council go for it? They got another term, too.) And Michael Bloomberg knows better than to think has no shot at winning the White House.
When these rumors about Bloomberg possibly running first circulated (this year -- not various other times in the past when they've circulated and not last May when also they circulated), there was a slew of thinkpiecehottakes looking at whether or not he could win. He'll hurt the Democrats! some argued, because of his liberal anti-gun views. He'll hurt Republicans! said others, since he'd appeal to moderates on the right who oppose Cruz or Trump. He'll hurt them both! Frank Luntz argued, hedging his bets.
That vagueness plays to Bloomberg's advantage. The never-ending theoretical appeal of Michael Bloomberg is that he is a grown-up, that he will enact sensible policies -- which translates as "policies that wealthy moderates would like to see." At the heart of Bloomberg's statement to the Financial Times is that talking about things that the voters are concerned about, like immigration and income inequality, is so tedious as to be offensive. Why are we not instead talking about the sort of things that Bloomberg's Upper East Side neighbors think is important? Bloomberg will, at last, be that candidate for that Manhattan.
The former mayor only has about a month to figure out if he wants to do it, because he needs to get on the ballot in enough states to be viable. No one really knows what might happen at that point, with one exception:
The general election debate stage would have a lot of well-informed opinions about pizza.