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Billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has indicated that he is putting together a team to explore whether he should enter the Presidential race after the New Hampshire primary if it looks like either Donald Trump and Ted Cruz will be the most likely Republican candidate, and Bernie Sanders will be the Democratic candidate. He has pledged to spend a billion dollars of his own money on the campaign if he runs.

Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg's Monkey Wrench—Ted Vaill

If he does this, it will really mess up the 2016 election.

There is little chance that Bloomberg, after spending his billion dollars, would become President of the United States, but he could end up causing the election of someone he does not want elected.

In September, 1998, my daughter Susan, a graduate student at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and an anonymous high-level U.S. Senate politician and I wrote a screenplay entitled "Inauguration Day 2001", postulating that no candidate got enough electoral votes to win the 2000 Presidential election, throwing the election into the U.S. Congress to pick the next President and Vice President. The script got optioned, but the film did not get made, and it almost happened in the 2000 Presidential election, when Bush was essentially elected over Gore by a 5-4 vote in the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the disputed Florida vote count.

It has happened, in fact twice before:

  • In 1824, Andrew Jackson won the most electoral votes, but not a majority, and the popular vote, but John Quincy Adams was elected President over Jackson by the Congress. (Jackson defeated him four years later.)
  • In 1876, Democrat Samuel Tilden was one electoral vote short of a majority, but the votes in three Southern states were disputed, with separate conflicting results sent in, which if they all broke in favor of the Republican, Rutherford Hayes, he would be elected by one electoral vote. A Presidential Commission was set up consisting of five Senators, five Congressmen and five Supreme Court Justices to decide which voting results in the three states to count. A day or so before the President was due to be inaugurated, the Commission voted 8-7 to accept the results in all three states in favor of Republican Rutherford Hayes, which meant that he was elected President by one electoral vote.

If Michael Bloomberg decides to enter the Presidential race, he would have to quickly establish a campaign team to run an effective campaign for the eight months left before the election. Since he would presumably run as an Independent, and not as a Republican (which he once was), or a Democrat (which he now more closely resembles), he would not have the help of either party in this effort.

No independent candidate has ever won the Presidency since George Washington, after which the two-party system stabilized. Teddy Roosevelt, after he relinquished the Republican Party leadership to William Howard Taft in 1908, ran against President Taft four years later as an independent "Progressive" and beat him badly; however, both were trounced by the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson.

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In 1980, Republican John Anderson ran an independent campaign, and in 1992 Ross Perot won 20 percent of the vote, but neither of them won any electoral votes. Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond won 39 electoral votes in 1948, Harry Byrd won 15 in 1960, and George Wallace won 46 in 1968, but these results did not really affect the outcome of these elections. Ralph Nader, on the other hand, did mess up the 2000 Presidential election, essentially handing it to George W. Bush by taking votes away votes for Al Gore in key states.

Bloomberg's Poison Pill

Since Bloomberg would not have any opposition during the primaries if he was not running as a Republican or Democrat but as an Independent, he could focus on winning the general election on November 8, 2016. And if he actually won several states, and the race between Republican candidate Crump or Democratic Candidate Clinders was close, it is quite possible that no candidate would get a majority of the electoral votes (50% plus one of the 538 electoral votes, or 270 electoral votes). In this event, Amendment XII of the Constitution provides that the House of Representatives, starting on the day in January, 2017 when the Congress first convenes, shall pick the President from among the top three candidates, with each of the 50 states having one vote.

Each state's vote would be determined by a vote of each state's Representatives in Congress, and votes will continue, without recess of the House or the consideration of any other business, until at least 26 states have agreed on a President. If no President is elected by the January 20 date set for the Inauguration, the Vice President-elect (elected by the Senate by a majority vote of all 100 Senators) shall become Acting President until a President is selected by the House.

A number of problems could crop up here:

  • Each state's electoral votes are determined by the number of Representatives and Senators each state has; for example, California has 54 Representatives and two Senators, or 56 electoral votes, and Wyoming has one Representative and two Senators or 3 electoral votes. Each electoral vote is cast by an elector, a person who is usually a trusted political friend of the candidate. However, in most states, there is nothing legally to prevent the elector from voting for a Presidential candidate other than the one he had pledged to vote for; it has happened on a number of occasions over the past 225 years. The electors cast their votes in early December, 2016 in their state capitols, and the prospect of dealmaking or corruption to influence electors to change their votes is great in a close election.
  • If a state has an equal number of Republican and Democratic Congressmen, there is a great possibility that the state vote would initially result in a tie, in which event a blank ballot would be cast. There is also a great possibility that deals would be made to get House members to vote against their party's Presidential candidate and to support the other party's candidate, in return for certain favors granted. The same problem could occur during the vote in the Senate for the Vice President.
  • This would especially be the case if no candidate got the vote of a majority of the states on the first ballot; the House and the Senate would stay in session and take vote after vote until the President and Vice President are selected. In 1800, the Constitution did not distinguish between President and Vice President in the electoral voting process, and as a consequence Presidential candidate Thomas Jefferson and Vice Presidential candidate Aaron Burr tied. Burr, on second thought, decided he really wanted to be President, and put his hat in the ring for that job. After 34 ballots, Jefferson was elected President and Burr had to settle for Vice President.
  •  The next Senate will very likely have a Democratic majority, as 24 Republican Senators are up for reelection, versus 10 Democrats. In a good Democratic year, as it should be if either Trump or Cruz is the Republican candidate, the Democrats should become the majority party in the Senate, and elect a Democratic Vice President. In the House, however, the Republicans have a strong majority which probably will not be reversed in 2016 without a Democratic landslide of historic proportions, and since each state has one vote for President, Wyoming's sole Congressman has an equal vote to California's 54. And these other states have only one Congressman: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming and D.C. Except for Delaware, Vermont and D.C., the others are strongly Republican. It is very possible that there could be a Republican President and a Democrat Vice President if Bloomberg syphons off enough of the votes that ordinarily would go to the Democratic candidate, and actually wins the electoral votes of several states.

There is little chance that Bloomberg, after spending his billion dollars, would become President of the United States, but he could end up causing the election of someone he does not want elected.

ted vaill

Ted Vaill