Bloomberg's confirmation followed speculation in the Times that he was thinking about mounting an independent bid, with allies of the former mayor telling the paper that the joint nominations of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump would get him to pull the trigger. It's not clear if that calculus became more likely with the dominant wins of those two men in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, but the possibility of the nomination of each certainly did. Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, echoing the general consensus that a Bloomberg bid would peel away more Democrats than Republicans, said simply, "We'll take it."
For all of this noise, though, it's not clear that a Bloomberg bid would get much traction. Those initial reports in the Times swarmed around in late January, shortly before Siena College was surveying New Yorkers on their feelings about the two parties' nominations. Hillary Clinton leads in the state by a fairly large margin, powered by strong support from black New Yorkers.
But the pollsters also asked people who they'd love to see enter the race, if anybody. Even with the Bloomberg rumors floating out there, 48 percent of the state said they were comfortable with the field as it stands, and another 12 percent offered no opinion. When people did offer names, Bloomberg's was the most common -- cited by 17 percent of Republicans and 14 percent of Democrats. That's about as many Democrats as said Joe Biden.
But that informal write-in ballot varied widely depending on who was being asked. When we first looked at Bloomberg's confirmation on Monday, we noted that his campaign seemed to appeal mostly to the wealthy New Yorkers with whom he surrounds himself. And, sure enough: Residents of New York City and its suburbs were more likely to throw out Bloomberg's name -- as were much wealthier residents of the city. Black New Yorkers, who loudly criticized Bloomberg's police practices during his tenure, were much more unlikely to suggest that they wished he'd run. The group mentioning him the most was Jewish New Yorkers, one out of four of him mentioned his name.
In other words, the people who want Michael Bloomberg to run the most are wealthier, white, Jewish New York City residents: People just like Michael Bloomberg.
A Quinnipiac University poll, also conducted a survey prior to Bloomberg's comments that offered a national match-up of Bloomberg-Sanders-Trump or Bloomberg-Sanders-Ted Cruz. Bloomberg fared poorly in both, earning 15 percent of the vote -- and with half the country not knowing him well enough to have an opinion. Among those who know him best, according to Siena, only a small number would like to see him mount that bid.
In a head-to-head contest between Sanders and Trump, by the way, Siena found that Sanders would pull 25 percent of the state's Republicans -- a remarkably high number, and a figure that's 10 points higher than what Hillary Clinton would draw. That indicates that Republicans have a strong antipathy to Trump which, combined with the fact that Republicans mentioned his name more readily than Democrats, suggests that (at least in non-hyper-conservative New York) a Bloomberg bid might not be the blessing that Priebus assumes.
In a moment as tumultuous as this one, a moment in which a billionaire New Yorker has already defied expectations to mount a real campaign and capture a big slice of the electorate, I'd be an idiot to say "never." So I won't. I will point out that the appeal of a Michael Bloomberg contrasts with the appeal of a Donald Trump in the way that the appeal of doing calculus homework contrasts with drinking beers and drag racing, but that's not really a political argument as such.
And I will note that if the first step of a candidacy is to make people aware of your possible candidacy: Bloomberg can check that box.