At first glance, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg running for president doesn’t make sense. Between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, why would Bloomberg risk splitting the Democratic ticket — not only splitting the ticket but splitting it three ways? To do so would give the Republicans an easy path to the White House.
Assuming that Sanders and Clinton continue their campaigns and that Trump and Cruz remain first and second in the Republican field, the 2016 race could turn out one of four ways. None of them — at least none of the most likely scenarios — work out well for the Democrats.
The first possibility is that Ted Cruz wins the Republican Party nomination. But according to a TIME poll, Cruz came in third in the latest GOP debate — technically fourth since the poll also included the absent Donald Trump. Cruz (polling at 19 percent) has offered the vice presidency to Trump (polling at 35 percent) but Trump doesn’t seem interested. If the Republicans nominate Cruz, they risk losing the momentum Trump has been building since July.
The second possibility is that Trump wins the nomination. Trump has also offered Cruz the vice presidency. When the Republican caucus meets to choose their nominee, they’ll pick Trump — currently forecasted to sweep the primaries in New Hampshire — and hope Cruz tags along.
The third possibility is that Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic Party nomination. The fourth is that Bernie Sanders does.
A Cruz nomination makes little political sense. A Trump nomination, according to the New Yorker, would mean Bloomberg enters the race and splits the Democratic vote. A Clinton nomination would mean that enough Sanders supporters stay home to give the Republicans the edge they need. A Sanders nomination would, according to The New York Times, also mean Bloomberg runs and splits the Democratic vote. No matter which way you slice it a Bloomberg run makes no political sense with Sanders and Clinton already running.
But there is a way in which a Bloomberg run not only makes sense, but makes perfect sense.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign relies on donations — very big donations. She has held one elected office in her life, U.S. Senator from New York, to which she was first elected in 2000 after meeting the state’s minimum residency requirement and re-elected in 2006. She now has a federal investigation hanging over her head. Michael Bloomberg, on the other hand, is a billionaire. He was elected Mayor of New York City — a city with a population roughly that of Virginia — three times. And he’s not under federal investigation.
Bloomberg running in addition to Clinton makes no sense. Bloomberg running instead of Clinton makes perfect sense.
Bloomberg and Clinton are both social liberals and both differ from Sanders in many of the same ways — support for strict gun control, opposition to more stringent immigration restrictions, opposition to economic protectionism, etc. Bloomberg could capitalize on much of Clinton’s remaining momentum and, when it comes to the Republicans, Bloomberg would steal much of Trump’s thunder. Both have been Democrats or Republicans at some point in their careers, both have made their fortune in New York and both can play the too-rich-to-be-bribed card.
Sanders, Clinton and Trump have all said they would either welcome a Bloomberg run or, in the case of Clinton, aren’t worried about it. All are too confident for their own good.