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Is the real establishment getting worried?
As news broke Saturday afternoon that billionaire former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is "seriously" considering the idea of a third-party run for president in 2016, some political observers immediately smelled a rat.
The New York Times was the first to report that Bloomberg has asked his political team to draw up plans for what a campaign might look like. The Times cited sources close to the former mayor who said he is prepared to invest "at least $1 billion" of his own money in order to finance a run against the Republican and Democratic nominees that ultimately emerge.
As Jamelle Bouie, political writer at Slate, put it snidely: "Billionaire contemplates buying White House for himself."
The Times reporting describes Bloomberg as "galled" by the dominance of Donald Trump in the GOP race and "troubled by Hillary Clinton's stumbles and the rise of Senator Bernie Sanders" on the Democratic side.
According to one source, described as having intimate knowledge of the deliberations, Bloomberg has been thinking quietly about this for some time. However, the person is quoted as saying, "It's gone from idle chit-chat, to 'let's take a real look.'"
A third-party independent has never won a presidential race in the United States, but as the Guardian notes, they have arguably made their impacts felt:
"In 1912 former president Theodore Roosevelt ran a popular campaign but split the votes of progressives and Republicans, helping Democrat Woodrow Wilson to victory.
"More recently, Texas businessman Ross Perot has been credited with helping Bill Clinton win the presidency in 1992, and Ralph Nader has been accused of siphoning off votes for Democrats and helping turn the 2000 election in Republican George Bush's favor."
The Time's reporting discusses the possibility of a Sanders vs. Trump general election as perhaps the most likely scenario in which Bloomberg might consider mounting his campaign.
Ari Fleischer, former White House Press Secretary under George W. Bush, was thrilled with the idea:
A Preemptive Strike Against a Surging Sanders?
"Mike Bloomberg for president rests on the not-impossible but somewhat unlikely circumstance of either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz versus Bernie Sanders," former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell told the Times. Known widely as a faithful member of the Democratic Party's establishment vanguard and described by the Times as "a close ally of Mrs. Clinton's who is also a friend of Mr. Bloomberg," Rendell said that "If Hillary wins the nomination, Hillary is mainstream enough that Mike would have no chance, and Mike's not going to go on a suicide mission."
However, Rendell added that if it was Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) facing off with Sanders, he might consider throwing his weight behind.