by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
[Former New York Mayor Michael] Bloomberg may have an opportunity anyway. He has to consider the underwhelming competition. Both major parties are flirting with candidates who might not be able to muster strong majorities of their own voters in a general election; who might split their parties, the way the Democrats broke apart in 1948 and 1860 and the way the Republicans divided their loyalties in 1912.
Though some Republicans are passionately for Donald Trump, others are contemptuous of his style and skeptical of his chances of winning. The same goes for Sen. Ted Cruz, maybe more so. Some Democrats believe that Bernie Sanders carries the heart and soul of their party; others remember that the party’s heart and soul won 13 electoral votes in 1984 and 17 in 1972.
The prospect of division within one party emboldens the militants of the other party. Bloodthirsty Republicans are convinced that any Republican can beat Sanders or Hillary Clinton, because he is so far out of step and she is so disliked and distrusted. Pie-in-the-sky Democrats can’t imagine Clinton or Sanders or anyone losing to Donald Trump or Cruz or another member of the Bush family.
The militant factions spend too much time in their echo chambers, but if both parties are bent on self-destruction, maybe Bloomberg can help.
If all Republicans pulled together behind a single candidate, that candidate probably would still be as short of an Electoral College majority as Mitt Romney in 2012, a candidate who needed to win at least five battleground states that year and who won only one.
If all Democrats pulled together, their candidate could win the popular vote fairly easily, but those battleground states still would be battlegrounds—like Florida was in 2000—and the Democrat still wouldn’t have a lock on the Electoral College.
Of course, somebody has to win a two-horse race. But a third candidate could add something new: the excitement of a possible runoff election in the House of Representatives, which hasn’t happened since 1824. That election is remembered for the “corrupt bargain” between John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay that put Adams in the White House over the leading candidate, Andrew Jackson.
If three candidates are the solution to something, why not add a fourth and a fifth? The House surely would choose the President, with each state having one vote and a majority of states required for election.