Bloomberg Could Shake Up 2008 Presidential Race
(CBS News) NEW YORK Michael Bloomberg's announcement that he is leaving the Republican Party has solidified the New York mayor's status as one of the most enticing non-candidates in the '08 presidential field.
A day after the announcement, Bloomberg repeated his assurance that he intends to finish out his second term as mayor and will not be a candidate for president.
"I've got the greatest job in the world," he said on Wednesday.
But political advisers aren't taking Bloomberg at his word and are grappling with the reality that next year's general election could become a three-person affair.
"I think the country might be ready for a third-party candidacy — and he's got the money to do it, if he chooses to do it," said CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer.
Bloomberg was a lifelong Democrat before switching to the GOP in 2001, which allowed him to sidestep a crowded Democratic primary field.
His liberal positions on several hot-button issues, include abortion, gun control and gay rights, lead many to believe that his impact on the election would negatively affect the Democratic nominee. The New York Times reported that several political analysts agreed that a Bloomberg candidacy would do just that.
But Bloomberg could also garner the support of disaffected GOP moderates.
Third-party candidates have traditionally ciphered off support from the party in which they left, notes CBS News political consultant Nicolle Wallace.
Such was the case when Teddy Roosevelt left the Republicans to become a Bull Moose in 1912 — a move that helped contribute to Democrat Woodrow Wilson's victory.
CBSNews.com senior political editor Vaughn Ververs points out that since Bloomberg will be able to bypass the primary cycle, he likely won't have to announce his candidacy until after February of next year.
"It's going to be hard to say what his impact will be until we know who the two nominees are for both parties," said Ververs said.
One of Bloomberg's more daunting tasks would be getting his name on the ballot, since state parties have control of the election process.
But Bloomberg enjoys the benefit of having some time to weigh his options.
Whether he decides to seek the nation's highest office might depend on what happens during the primaries. If the nominees are Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, for instance, Bloomberg might find it difficult to find his own niche in an all-New York field.
"I think what he is truly doing here is exploring," Schieffer said. "He's testing the waters — testing the market. He's going to go around the country, he's going to make some speeches, he's going to see what kind of a reaction he gets. And if he gets a good reaction, my prediction is that he will run as an independent candidate."