Mayor Michael Bloomberg is no longer a Republican. Some would argue he never was. After all, Bloomberg supports gay marriage, abortion rights, gun control, and stem cell research, and raised property taxes. Not exactly textbook Republican.
Neither Democrats nor Republicans have fielded a clear-cut 2008 Presidential candidate to date. With Congress at a 22% approval rating and the Executive Branch not much higher, one might reasonably conclude that Americans don’t like either party very much. Now an Independent, and not having ruled out a Presidential run, Bloomberg may decide that he could be the nation’s best choice.
You can be sure that if he does run, Bloomberg will have done the math. But just what has been the success rate of past 3rd party presidential candidates?
They do have a long and rich history, beginning with William Wirt in 1832 when he ran for President as a member of the Anti-Masonic Party fighting secrecy in government and society. Here’s a stat that surprised me: Since then there have been only three presidential elections when a third party candidate didn’t capture at least 1% of the popular vote: in 1864, 1868, and 1876.
In 1912, former President Theodore Roosevelt ran as a candidate for the Progressive Party (also known as the Bull-Moose Party), and got more votes than Republican incumbent William Howard Taft, making Taft the only incumbent President to finish third. In that same election Socialist Party candidate Eugene V. Debs won 6% of the vote.
In 1924 Robert M. La Follette, who like Bloomberg left the Republican party to become independent, got 17% of the vote as a Progressive Party candidate.
In 1968, former Alabama Governor George Wallace got 13% of the vote for the American Independent Party, including 46 electoral votes, which trumps the 2.4% and zero electoral votes for Henry Wallace’s Independent run in 1948.
Ross Perot won 19% of the popular vote in 1992 and 8% in 1996. In 2000, Independent Ralph Nader won only 2.74% of the popular vote but that was enough to help George W. Bush win.
No third party candidate has even won – yet. But one thing is for sure. With Presidential candidates Rudy Giuliani, Hilary Clinton, and Bloomberg whether he is declared or not, New York seems to be the winner no matter what.