A new CNN/Opinion Research poll provides early evidence that, contrary to much of the partisan speculation of the past week, Michael Bloomberg would draw support about evenly from both parties.
Matched against Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani – the major party two front-runners, for now at least – Bloomberg receives 17 percent, compared to 41 percent for Hillary and 38 for Giuliani. When Bloomberg is excluded, Hillary leads Rudy 49 to 48 percent. So Bloomberg’s candidacy, at least initially, would cost both parties about evenly.
This reinforces the idea that Bloomberg is positioned to draw from a vast pool of voters who don’t identify with either party – like Ross Perot did in 1992, and unlike Ralph Nader, who appealed mostly to the left in 2000.
In fact, it’s probably worth comparing these initial Bloomberg numbers to one of the first comprehensive national polls after the Perot phenomenon struck in the late winter and early spring of ’92. Recall that Perot declared his willingness to run (pending a volunteer army obtaining ballot access for him) on February 20 of that year, but that it wasn’t until a month later that he began attracting considerable press attention and building momentum. Here are the findings of a Gallup poll conducted at the end of March ’92 and released in early April:
George H.W. Bush 41 percent
Ross Perot 24 percent
Bill Clinton 23 percent
By the time he peaked in June, Perot was registering over 40 percent in national polls, in clear possession of first place. His demise was primarily self-inflicted. But that first poll in ’92 showed the same broad appetite for a third voice that the Bloomberg numbers strongly suggest. Indeed, the ’92 poll showed Perot taking evenly from both parties (17 percent of the GOP vote and 19 percent of the Democratic vote) and cleaning up among independents (37 percent).
That Michael Bloomberg is a much saner and steadier version of Ross Perot should terrify both parties, not just one of them.