Michael Bloomberg is currently evaluating an independent run in the 2016 presidential race, and is willing to spend up to one billion dollars to win the election. Popular wisdom would say that it would be nearly impossible for a third-party candidate to win a General Election. The rumor is that if Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders, win the Nominations, Bloomberg would run as the only pro-gun control candidate, and would run a nationwide campaign to win the Presidency. I am going to lay out a way where Hillary Clinton could go up against Donald Trump (much more likely scenario), where Bloomberg could spend far less money, win only three states, and still become the next President of the United States of America.
A little known fact, since we have not had a really serious third-party candidate in some time, is that if no candidate meets the 270 electoral vote threshold, the election will be decided by the House of Representatives. An even lesser known fact, is how that secondary election works. Basically, the top three finishers in the Presidential election will enter this House of Representatives Election. Currently, there are 246 Republicans, and 188 Democrats in the House of Representatives, but the secondary election is not nearly that simple. Each state gets only one vote in this special election, meaning Delaware has the same amount of voting power as California. The House votes, and each state delegation gets one single vote, a Candidate needs 26 votes to win. If no candidate gets 26 votes, then another vote will be taken…over, and over, again until someone gets 26 votes. Currently, if the House of Representative delegations voted based on party lines, there would be 33 votes for republican, 15 votes for democrats and 3 votes with evenly split delegations.
How does this lead to Michael Bloomberg winning only three states, and being elected as our next President?
First of all, Donald Trump (who, as a constitutional conservative, I will never support) will need to win the Republican Nomination. Hillary Clinton will need to win the Democratic Nomination. Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton, will enter the General Election as the two candidates with the highest unfavorable ratings in the history of Presidential Politics. Unfortunately for Donald Trump, one large group who hates both of them are the constitutional conservative base of the Republican party. Very much like what we saw with McCain, and Romney, Republicans will lose all of the swing states if the conservative base stays home. In a nutshell, the Democratic Candidate is likely to win all of the swing states, and walk away with the election if Donald Trump were to run against them, with no significant 3rd party opposition. If Bloomberg were to run in all 50 states, conventional wisdom is that he would likely siphon off more votes from the Democrats, than from the Republicans. In a year where both the Republican and Democratic candidates have high unfavorable ratings, this would set up a politically-intriguing, wild-west, 31-way showdown for the Presidency…But, this is not his smartest move.
The smartest move Bloomberg could make is to run in just three states: New York, New Jersey, and California. If Bloomberg were to get on the ballot in just these 3 states, he would force the Republican and Democrats to continue to spend most of their money trying to win the key swing states, while Bloomberg could focus his one billion dollar campaign war chest on winning just these 3 states, and their 98 electoral votes. By not getting on the ballot in the other 47 states, he would maintain the Electoral College equilibrium, each of the candidates would win the states that they are supposed to, and Hillary Clinton would beat Donald Trump in the swing states. This will stop Donald Trump from capturing the 270 Electoral votes that he would need to become the next President of the United States.
Why should Bloomberg get on the ballot in these three states? These states are all huge gun control states, which would play right into Bloomberg’s hands, and winning these consistently Democratic states would allow him to stop the Democratic Nominee from capturing 270 Electoral votes. On top of that, Bloomberg would get far more than the 2 million votes likely needed to become the third largest vote-getting in the 2016 Presidential Election, which would qualify him for the secondary election inside the House of Representatives after both major nominees fail to meet the 270 Electoral Vote requirement, even without getting ballot access throughout the rest of the country.
We will put those three states aside for a moment, and assume that the 2016 Presidential Election goes into the secondary election within the House of Representatives. As I mentioned, there are 33 states with Republican delegations, so won’t they just vote for Donald Trump? Well, only 1 of 435 current congressmen have endorsed him so far, and he rails against their ineffectiveness (as he bashes them all for being establishment) every single chance he gets. After he alienates the conservative base, and they don’t show up to the polls in November, a number of the conservative republicans will lose their seats, potentially along with their Republican majority. In short, there will be a lot of angry Republican congressmen who blame Trump for how badly this election went for the Republicans, and will be looking for a way to punish him, without electing a Democrat. Bloomberg offers them a chance to elect a fiscally conservative former Republican, instead of electing a former Liberal Democrat who just lost them control of the House of Representatives.
There is literally no chance that the Democratic candidate can win 26 votes, as Republican delegations will never be able to look their constituents in the face again after voting for a Liberal Icon. There are only 15 states with Democratic constituencies, which leaves them 11 short of the 26 state requirement to have their candidate elected. Let’s assume all of the Republican delegations split evenly between Bloomberg and Trump (best case scenario for the Democrats), the Democratic candidate would still only secure 22 states, which means there is virtually no reason for Democrats in Congress to back their own nominee, when they could flip their support to Bloomberg and be part of the larger group who could say that they ended Trump’s hopes of the Presidency.
Bloomberg would need 26 state delegations to back him in the secondary election in order to get elected President. An important part of this plan, is that the 15 states with Democratic delegations realize that their candidate cannot possibly win, and resolve to vote for Bloomberg, since he would be better for them than Trump. In an interesting twist, the smaller state congressmen actually have the most power during this entire process. For example, Congressman Kevin Cramer, the only congressman in North Dakota, has as much power as the 38 congressmen in Texas combined. If Representative Cramer votes for Bloomberg, he wins the state, it’s that simple. If the Democrats back Bloomberg, there are 17 states with Republican (or evenly split) delegations who would only need 2 (or less) Republican congressmen to back Bloomberg, instead of Trump, in order to win that state’s vote. That is more than enough, alone, to hand the Presidency to Bloomberg. Less than 30 Republican Congressmen could wind up handing the Presidency directly to Michael Bloomberg after he wins only three states. That said, I would actually anticipate many of the larger delegations to swing in his favor, after Trump spends the rest of the year alienating the “Establishment”, helping make incumbent Republican’s lives difficult, and after he moves further to the middle after he wins the nomination.
Bloomberg, of course, is a polarizing figure among Republicans, so this is not a slam dunk. Republican Congressmen would need a very good reason to hand the Presidency to someone who is not the Republican Nominee. I believe that between Trump’s polarizing statements, his tax returns, the Trump University Fraud case, and other misstatements that he makes throughout the campaign, will be enough to drive a wedge between him and the sitting Congress. Of course, there is one wild card in this plan. The whole reason that these three states are ideal for Bloomberg to win is because of his strong support of gun control. There would be a huge push by the NRA to pressure its members to vote against Bloomberg as President. The NRA is extremely influential within the Republican congress, and it would be hard for them to vote for an anti-NRA nominee. This is probably the largest roadblock that he would have in order to execute this plan.
Bloomberg will need to name a pro-gun, pro-life VP, to show that he wants both sides represented in every policy debate in Washington. This will send a message to conservatives that he is serious about listening to their concerns on social issues. In the end, whoever Trump picks as his VP candidate would win the VP election (not covered here, but the Senate would vote separately for the VP among the top two candidates, rendering Bloomberg’s VP choice essentially meaningless). Conservatives will be able to sleep well knowing that Trump’s strong pro-gun, pro-life VP will keep Bloomberg in check, and Bloomberg will have to make promises to make the new VP extremely active in policy decisions. Conservative Republicans will argue that they need a proven fiscal conservative, who helped turn around New York City after 9/11. They will be able to look their constituents in the eyes, say they stopped the nightmare of a Trump Presidency, while still putting a fiscally conservative businessman into the White House. Bloomberg would be able to spend one billion dollars in just three states, and capture the first presidency decided by the House of Representatives in over 100 years.