Michael Bloomberg announced that he may run. Currently he is trading at about 1-2% to be president; this value is unconditional, so would likely go up, should he run. I see how Michael Bloomberg could get upwards of 20% or more of the popular vote for president of the United States, but it is really unlikely he can win the presidency. After consulting Twitter yesterday I am convinced:
By definition, Bloomberg needs to win states where Obama won in 2008/2012 to block a Democratic victory and that is going to be really hard. It would be easier for him to win states that went Republican in 2008/2012, but that does not help him. In the unlikely scenario he does block a Democratic victory in the Electoral College, he could win the in House. Because, conditional on him winning those Electoral Votes, there is a crazy amount of momentum behind him!
1) Hillary Clinton gets the Democratic nomination. This is still the most likely scenario on the Democratic side. She is running a centrist/moderate, which means there would be no open position for him to make headway. Very few Clinton supporters would abandon the Democratic party nominee to vote for someone with nearly indistinguishable policy positions. It feels a lot like voting for Ralph Nader in 2000, but Nader claimed more distance between his policy positions and Al Gore than Bloomberg from Clinton. On the Republican side there could be a lot of daylight on policy, but why vote for Bloomberg over Clinton? A vote for Bloomberg is a protest vote against their nominee. With 2008/2012 Democratic voters holding fast in swing states, there would be no way to tip enough Republican voters to actually win anything. Now if Clinton stumbles then one of two things happens (1) it is too late for Bloomberg to join (2) Bernie Sanders becomes the nominee.
2) Bernie Sanders gets the Democratic nomination and runs against Donald Trump. This is the most likely Republican nominee at this point. Sanders is more liberal than Clinton and there is certainly now more daylight as a centrist candidate. But, the Sanders is not that extreme in his positions (as he is in the perception of his positions) and he will pivot a bit for the general. The Democratic establishment will rally around him and the Democratic base will be enthusiastic. Similarly, Trump (with the exception of his immigration position) is actually extremely moderate for a Republican. Despite what he says now, he is probably socially liberal and anti-regime change. With a Sanders nomination he re-positions himself as the moderate. Now Bloomberg is stuck with a sliver of conservative Democrats (but not the pro-gun ones) and liberal Republicans (a really small group). This may be enough to actually affect outcomes in swing states, but not enough to take any states. What if Trump going off the deep-end? (1) He just said yesterday that he "could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters,", so apparently that is impossible. (2) Once he gets the nomination he is likely to stop being as crazy. (3) It is still really hard for Bloomberg to win a state where Sanders is competing hard for the core Democratic voters and the few swing voters. And, he needs to win several states that Obama carried 2008/2012 in order to have a shot at victory, because otherwise Sanders wins!
3) Bernie Sanders gets the Democratic nomination and runs against Ted Cruz. This is an unlikely scenario at this point. Now there is a lot of daylight between the two nominees, with one being a progressive and the other extremely right-wing. Now Bloomberg can compete for a large swath of the middle, as he can comfortable move a little right and not run into the Republican nominee. Bloomberg can now compete for the conservative Democrats (but not the pro-gun ones), liberal Republicans (a really small group), and establishment Republicans. He would basically run as the Republican establishment nominee and treat Cruz as if he were the third-party challenger to the right. Of course, Cruz is pretty popular with the Republican base (especially in this scenario where he just got the nomination). And Sanders is going to take command of the unified and charged Democratic base. Bloomberg puts some swing Republican states into play and possibly some swing Democratic states. He may split the vote enough in some of these states to win Electoral Votes, but he needs to take Democratic states from 2008/2012 in order to block Sanders from the majority. Going back to Sanders v. Trump (3), this is still really unlikely, because Democratic 2012 voters are going to be very unified in either of these scenarios (i.e., Trump going even more crazy and/or Cruz as the Republican nominee).
Bloomberg needs to win Obama 2008/2012 states in order to have a chance at victory, otherwise the Democratic nominee has won the election. If Bloomberg wins no Electoral Votes, then one of the major party candidates has won (barring a tie). And, if either of the major party candidates wins over 269 Electoral Votes than that candidate has won. Bloomberg is not going to win over 269 Electoral Votes himself, so he is going to have to ensure that both candidates are below 269. That means winning states that went Democratic in 2008/2012. I already noted this as unlikely, but what happens if he does? Technically, Electors in 26 states could switch their vote in the case of no majority (the other 24 states bound their delegates) or the states could re-allocate their Electors. But, both of these would face serious legal hurdles and the Supreme Court will likely send it to the House, where the elections go if the Electoral College has no majority.
Voting in the House could go Bloomberg's way. When the election goes to the House where the each state gets one vote. Currently, the Republicans control 33 states and there are 3 tie. Which means that if the House Republicans are unified behind their candidate s/he is most likely to get the presidency. But, this brings us to Trump being crazy or Cruz just not being well liked. This is where some states could throw their support behind Bloomberg and the Democratic states could back it as compromise. Of course, the Democrats are also going to be really upset at Bloomberg in this scenario, because they probably blame him for costing Sanders the election.
Note 1: I would love to see changes in the electoral process to allow third party challengers, this post reflects the reality of our electoral system.
Note 2: In all scenarios his $1 billion could affect the tone and substance of the debate. I am not judging the impact of that investment in this post.