Presidential Campaign

Could we see Bloomberg vs. Romney in 2016?

Getty Images

Last evening, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) won very big in the New Hampshire Democratic primary and Republican candidate Donald Trump came in with more than twice the votes of his closest competitor, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R). As was expected. The yard signs and bumper stickers had it right. Bernie and Trump signs were everywhere.

{mosads}But the Year of the Fire Monkey is most unpredictable. Both candidates Bernie and The Donald are nontraditional. Possibly for the first time in our American history, it has happened that both parties forge independent directions and suggest an existential shift in our evolving American condition. Or is it only rural eccentricity? Does meyhem beckon?

Last month, Michael Bloomberg, former Republican-turned-independent mayor of New York and one of the richest men in the world, suggested that this was a symptom of political instability. He said he was thinking of running for president as an independent. Most observers said it couldn’t be done and cited the long tradition, from Ross Perot to Teddy Roosevelt, of those who tried and failed.

But this time it could be different as both candidates are running as anti-establishment types. This time it is the third-party agent, Bloomberg, who suggests stability and a reasonable continuation of the American political tradition. An in fact, after just a few days of the first mentions, the idea began to catch on and a new poll indicated that Bloomberg would do better than it was first thought against Sanders and Trump. The poll even showed that he would do well against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and the Clinton establishment.

Veteran Democratic commentator Douglas Schoen, who has been a consultant to Bloomberg, thinks the former mayor can win. Only 16 percent of voters voted in a primary or caucus four years ago, he wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal. The other 84 percent form a new silent majority of “the millions of Americans who don’t participate in Democratic or Republican primaries. They are equally as fed up with the status quo, but they have a different approach to problem-solving and different policy prescriptions than those on the ideological extremes.”

Who appeals then to the center, he asks?

“Michael Bloomberg, a centrist with a clear (and arguably unique) record in business as an entrepreneur and in politics as a three-term mayor of New York,” says Schoen.

I think he is right. I think Bloomberg can be elected and if so, could be a great president in a tradition of strength, maturity and American character. Robert Gates, secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011, wrote recently to say we needed a president in these treacherous times with character “like Franklin D. Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan.” Bloomberg might well be that man, and today he tells the press that he is considering a run, calling the current dialogue “distressingly dull … an insult to the voters.”

But former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republicans’ 2012 nominee, could be the kind of man Gates calls for as well.

Suppose by the end of May the country had come to decide that Sanders was a Vermont novelty who would go the way of George McGovern (D), the South Dakota senator who ran for president in 1972, bringing youth to a rapture but able to win only the young and unformed and the state of Massachusetts. And the others decided that a president who promises us methods “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” might find better work elsewhere, possibly in Hollywood. Or talk radio.

Americans would rush to stability, especially if stocks continue to plummet as they have been doing this past month. Bloomberg would be seen as the savior of America and he would be. But his presence in the race would offset the scales, particularly pulling from a more liberal crowd.

Conservatives would quickly seek an equal and opposite counterforce and, in a panic, seek out their best man. And that would be Romney, who, like Bloomberg, might be seen to have been waiting in the wings all along, waiting for the fevers to subside and the people to return to their better natures.

When Romney’s name was added to a poll by Suffolk University/The Boston Globe last November, he led other Republicans by a two-to-one margin. Trump lost a third of his support.

“Everyone I know is dissatisfied with the current field of choices,” says an old friend, retired from the State Department and a personal consultant these past 30 years.

Maybe everyone is. “Trump, Sanders and the American rage,” read a headline yesterday in the Financial Times. “The yearning for leaders from the fringes will have profound implications for the U.S. and the world.”

Even after the grim twilight of the primaries, we may yet see our best single combat warriors come forth and a new and worthy race for America’s destiny could suddenly awaken.

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at

Tags Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Independent Michael Bloomberg Mitt Romney Third party

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video