A close adviser to Michael Bloomberg says the former mayor of New York’s decision not to run for the presidency as an independent was based on strong data suggesting he might spoil the Democratic vote — and propel Donald Trump into the Oval Office.
Howard Wolfson, a Democratic political strategist and senior adviser to Bloomberg, spoke to Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric Tuesday about the business magnate’s announcement to sit out the 2016 White House race.
“In a Clinton-Trump-Bloomberg contest, while the message resonated strongly, it only resonated enough to get us to maybe 50 or 100 electoral votes, all coming in blue states at the quote-unquote ‘expense of Hillary Clinton,’” Wolfson explained.
There was a tremendous risk, he continued, that Bloomberg’s presence on the ballot would have prevented any candidate from winning 270 electoral votes, which would throw the race into the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, who would presumably hand the election over to Trump.
The thought that Bloomberg might ensure a Trump victory was unacceptable to his team. Bloomberg’s concern over the reality TV star’s rhetoric and extreme policies is what spurred him to consider a run.
“Donald Trump is the kind of phenomnon that we have not seen in American politics since George Wallace. And George Wallace was not a major-party nominee,” Wolfson said, referring to the notorious civil rights-era Alabama governor who fought against desegregation. “I think Trump stands alone as a particular threat to American society.”
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign event in Concord, N.C., on Monday. (Photo: Chris Keane/Reuters)
In the United States, Wolfson said, there are not many obligations of citizenship, but every so often a candidate emerges who is a threat to the very ideals of the nation, causing people with the resources and reach (like Bloomberg) to consider running.
Over the past few months, Bloomberg supporters, frustrated with their current choices, have been calling for him to run, and — sharing their concerns — he looked into it seriously.
“Citizenship in this year requires a deeper engagement, a more thoughtful engagement with the issues,” Wolfson said. “I can’t wait to vote, given what’s going on.”
Wolfson, who was communications director for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, said that Bloomberg has not yet chosen to endorse a candidate and is troubled by the Democratic frontrunner’s criticisms of charter schools and the financial sector.
“He may choose to endorse in the race. He may choose not to endorse,” Wolfson said. “But certainly he was very clear about where he stands on Donald Trump.”
When asked if he was personally disappointed that Bloomberg decided not to run, Wolfson said he feels bittersweet though he thinks it’s the right decision.
“[Bloomberg] is very data-driven. He made the decision on the data,” Wolfson said. “I think that the risk of electing Donald Trump would have been greater for us than any of us wanted to bear. I couldn’t imagine waking up on Election Day having done that. Couldn’t live with yourself. Couldn’t look yourself in the mirror.”