According to David Frum, in National Review on-line, it hurts the Republicans most. Here he writes:
“So far, none of these winners and losers will affect the general outline of the election much. But here's one more prediction: Bloomberg will launch his campaign on the high road, giving worthy speeches about rebuilding US alliance, reforming health care, combating climate change, and other topics designed to win him the approbation of the Manhattan financial and media elite. Favorable publicity may bump him up to 5% or 8% in the polls, just enough to keep him spending money. But after the conventions of the summer of 2008, voters will begin returning to their homes in the two big parties. Bloomberg's numbers will dwindle (as Nader's did). He will then face a stark choice: accept that he's been made a monkey of - or up the ante. Nobody gets to be as rich as Bloomberg if he is not a fierce competitor. So - assuming he has followed the path thus far - he will double down. He will go negative, filling the airwaves with harsh attack ads.Frum makes some interesting points, but I don’t think Mayor Bloomberg hurts the Republicans more than the Democrats for a several of reasons. First, no really plugged in Republican ever truly believed Michael Bloomberg was one of them. He was a lifelong Democrat who switched parties just to avoid a crowded primary field. And he gives the term RINO all new meaning. From day one, Bloomberg declared that his mission was to remake the Republican Party as a liberal party. It was never going to happen outside of Manhattan’s silk stocking district where the politics are more pro-business, free trade, libertarian, and corporatist than Republican.
Against whom will those ads be aimed? A lot will ride on that question. Attack ads are dangerous things, because they damage both the attacker and the attackee. Their main effect is not to change votes from D to R or R to D, but to depress turnout among potential supporters of the targeted candidate. Candidates refrain from excess negativity for fear of damaging their own image. But a Bloomberg in the polling basement will feel no such constraint.
The ads will be a free gift to the candidate Bloomberg dislikes less at the expense of the candidate he dislikes more.
And the candidate he dislikes more will almost certainly be the Republican.”
So, the other prevailing conventional wisdom, as captured by John Hawkins at Rightwing News is:
The natural issue for a third party candidate would seem to be illegal immigration, but Bloomberg is pro-comprehensive immigration, just like all the top tier Republican and Democratic candidates, other than Fred Thompson. If Fred Thompson or another tough on illegal immigration nominee like Duncan Hunter were to win the nomination, Bloomberg would hurt the Democratic candidate. If both candidates are pro-comprehensive immigration, Bloomberg's entry would probably be a wash.In fact, if you look at Hawkins' talking points, Bloomberg is your typical slightly left of center candidate, much like the Democratic frontrunners. It’s a general rule of thumb that when two individuals who hold roughly the same moderate to liberal principles run against each other in a three way race against a conservative, the two left center candidates will split the liberal, moderate and independent votes leaving the conservative to slide into an easier victory with a smaller number of dedicated true believers.
Bloomberg is pro-abortion. Again, that would probably undercut the Democratic nominee.
Bloomberg is Jewish and since Jews typically vote Democratic 70/30, he would probably draw more of them from the Democratic candidate.
Since Bloomberg is from New York, you'd have to think he would have the potential to draw votes away from the home town girl, Hillary in New York State and perhaps in states like Florida, which have a lot of transplanted New Yorkers living there. If Rudy turns out to be the GOP nominee, this would probably turn out to be a moot issue.
Bloomberg does have a reputation as a fiscal conservative, but he has raised taxes and is not in any way, shape, or form a small government guy. We're talking about a guy who banned trans-fats in restaurants. So, for that reason, he would probably have a lot of difficulty appealing to small government conservatives. Again, this issue would probably be a wash.
Bloomberg hasn't talked a whole lot about foreign policy which isn't surprising, given that he's just a Mayor, but the limited number of things he has said about the issues make him sound more like a Democrat than a Republican. So again, he would probably drain more support from the Democratic candidate.
I think Bloomberg undercuts any Democratic candidate. He probably won’t be a threat to the very liberal parts of the Democratic base, as Ralph Nader was in 2000, but he will appeal to independents. They are not aligned with any party and Bloomberg’s pragmatic socially liberal, fiscally moderate, pro-business, sympathetic to the poor, not antagonistic to labor platform will appeal to them. And despite his recent foray into Republican politics, their base never thought he was one of them anyway.
Another problem for Democrats is that Bloomberg never cut his ties to some of his most powerful Democratic friends and allies. Indeed, in his last run for mayor, in 2005, he sucked up lots of the money that would have gone to his Democratic opponent because of his longtime friendship with powerful Democratic fundraisers like Toni Goodale. Here’s a quote from Christ Smith at New York Magazine:
Toni Goodale, the socialite, professional fund-raiser, and loyal Democrat, knows Rattner well but wasn’t invited. Yet her long friendship with Bloomberg, a neighbor, was enough to hamper one of his Democratic challengers. “I’ve been supporting Gifford [Miller] since he was a baby,” Goodale says. “I was one of Kerry and Gore’s major, major fund-raisers; I raised hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars for each one. I think Gifford is great, and he could be a terrific mayor—someday. But he knows we’ve been friendly with Bloomberg. My daughter works for the corporation counsel—for Michael Cardozo, who was my kindergarten boyfriend—and in effect for Bloomberg. So when Gifford asked for help with fund-raising, I said no.”Got that? A major fundraiser who did heavy lifting for Kerry and Gore but threw her considerable financial weight behind Republican (in name only) Bloomberg and not the Democrat Gifford Miller. And despite his more recent dustup with the Transportation Workers Union Local 100 during the transit strike, Bloomberg won the endorsement and cultivated the support of some of the city’s municipal unions:
Frank Ombres is standing on West 34th Street, grinning broadly as thousands of his happy union brothers pour out of the Hammerstein Ballroom after a raucous event that’s part press conference, part TV-commercial shoot, and part union-hall blowout. Moments ago, Mike Bloomberg was onstage, bopping tentatively as “Welcome to the Jungle” screamed from the loudspeakers and carpenters and glaziers chanted “May-uh Mike! May-uh Mike!,” their enthusiasm stoked by the city’s humming economy and an open bar paid for by Bloomberg 2005. Turning his company into an international powerhouse earned Bloomberg the respect of his corporate peers. But nothing satisfies the ego of a pencil-necked plutocrat like soaking in the cheers of a theater full of burly construction workers.Bloomberg inoculates himself from some of the blame for his role in putting down the transit strike in 2006 because Governor Pataki, not the mayor, appointed the Metropolitan Transit Board that played hardball with the TWU. Although Bloomberg went to court to force the strikers back to work – the judge invoked New York state’s Taylor law to fine the striking union $1 million a day – the mayor actually played no role in the negotiations. So, he was able to lay it at the governor’s feet for appointing an intransigent board.
Ombres is secretary-treasurer of Laborers Local 731, and after the rally, he’s telling a story about meeting Bloomberg in a slightly different setting. “He had us over to his house a couple months ago,” Ombres says. “All the union leaders. That was pretty cool. It’s a fancy place, but he’s a regular guy. He put on a good spread. And he’s come through for us. All we want is work and new members, and he’s got construction going for the next 50 years.”
The Democrat’s only hope of not losing in a three way race where the two liberals split the independent and moderate votes is that Bloomberg keeps saying he’s not going to run. If he keeps his word, that’s the Democrats’ best shot at holding their base and reaching out to moderates and independents disenchanted with the Republican Party.
Hopefully, Michael Bloomberg is simply positioning himself to come back to the Democrats some day and be a player there. Otherwise, we have a long, difficult campaign season that might end in bitter disappointment for both Bloomberg and the Democrats.
Bloomberg probably wouldn’t win. The track record for third party candidates without a party machinery to help get out the vote isn’t very promising. But he sure could keep the Democrats from reaching the White House and he could give victory by default to the very Republicans he supposedly disdains. We can only pray that his much vaunted pragmatism wins out over his ego.