Bloomberg at 29 Percent

Feb. 1, 2016 — Hidden within the hubbub about whether or not Donald Trump would attend the Fox News debate last week, and perched on the cusp of the long-awaited Iowa Caucus voting scheduled for today, we find a Luntz Global poll (Jan. 26-27; 900 national registered voters) that projects former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) scoring as high as 29 percent in a hypothetical race against Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D). He posts 28 percent if the Republican nominee were Florida Sen. Marco Rubio or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Pollster Frank Luntz makes the argument that Bloomberg has an actual path to national victory and uses Ross Perot’s 1992 independent candidacy to support his analysis. He quotes period surveys that found Perot beginning his first presidential quest with low single-digit voter preference, rising as high as 39 percent in the polls, and ending with 19 percent of the popular vote.

Luntz believes Bloomberg has the potential to do much better, particularly when his data finds the Independent already approaching 30 percent, approximately 10 times better than Perot’s beginning point.

What Luntz fails to consider, however, is the Electoral Vote count and what his potential candidacy could do to realistically change the overall outcome.

While Perot scored a more than respectable 19 percent back in ‘92, he recorded no Electoral Votes because he failed to win even one state. Should Bloomberg run, and win a small number of states in tight three-way splits, his EV total would not elect him president. Rather, it would likely cast the contest into the House of Representatives, which has the power to choose the presidential winner should no candidate attain a majority in the Electoral College. Considering the Republican dominance in the House, such an ending would almost assuredly favor the GOP candidate.

The Luntz poll provides us an additional interesting glimpse. Most Independent candidacies in the past, which certainly was the case with Perot’s bids in 1992 and ’96, tended to benefit the Democratic candidate because the Republican nominee bled support into the Independent column. This time, however, it appears the GOP candidate would get a boost because Bloomberg appears to be taking more support from Hillary Clinton.

In the three proposed ballot tests, Trump and Rubio score close wins against Clinton, while the former Secretary of State and First Lady would top Sen. Cruz in an equally close spread. Trump would lead Clinton and Bloomberg, 37-33-29 percent, in the national popular vote, while Rubio would score a 38-35-28 percent victory. In the final scenario, Clinton defeats Sen. Cruz and Bloomberg, 37-35-28 percent, respectively. Bloomberg’s presence also holds both major party nominees below 40 percent in all three scenarios, at least according to this earliest of polls testing a major three-way campaign.

As we noted last week, the former New York mayor would have plenty in the way of campaign financing, thereby ensuring he would have the wherewithal to tell his story. In his favor would be distrust of both the status quo and the major political parties. Against him are his extreme positions on gun control and enacting government dictates over personal lifestyle.

Though talk will continue about a Bloomberg independent presidential run, it likely won’t happen. But, if he were to enter, Luntz has provided an early peek into how the electorate and the eventual presidential campaign outcome could be affected.

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