Russert’s Panel of Bloomberg Skeptics Misses the Point

On the left, it is increasingly fashionable to trash David Broder and his political pronouncements, which sometimes reflect an unusual and baffling level of sympathy for the White House.

But on “Meet the Press” this Sunday, Mr. Broder, the supposed “dean” of the Washington press corps, demonstrated that on at least one topic he’s well ahead of his fellow journalists.

At issue was Michael Bloomberg’s potential presidential candidacy and as his fellow panelists, PBS’s Gwen Ifill, The Wall Street Journal’s John Harwood and Roger Simon of The Politico, took turns expounding on The 646 Reasons Why An Independent Can Never Be Elected, Mr. Broder jumped in.

You guys are much too dismissive,” he told them.

Mr. Broder then argued that an independent “absolutely” can win the presidency in 2008 because both parties are fatally tainted – the Republicans by their association with President Bush and the Democrats by their stewardship of Congress – thus creating a gaping opening for a credible third candidate in the middle.

His assertion wasn’t without flaws. For instance, he overstated the liability-potential of Congress for ’08 Democrats. Sure, Congress scores terribly in polls, but negative sentiment toward President Bush is vastly more intense, hostile and personal. But in the bigger picture, at least, Mr. Broder had the good sense to recognize that his fellow Washingtonians’ often-justified skepticism toward independents may not hold up in the case of 2008 and Mr. Bloomberg.

His fellow panelists, by contrast, seemed to be on autopilot, offering up one familiar and easy-to-rebut argument against Mr. Bloomberg’s plausibility after another.

Take Mr. Simon, customarily an insightful political observer. Asked by host Tim Russert for his take on the Bloomberg ’08 talk, Mr. Simon responded with a cheap-shot – “For the Bloomberg scenario, I was going to call it a fantasy, but that would be cruel” – before offering two particularly suspect reasons to write off Mr. Bloomberg.

"For the scenario to work,” he said, “not just one party, but both parties have to nominate candidates at the extremes. You have to have a Barry Goldwater on one side and a George McGovern on the other. How likely is that to happen, especially since both parties know that Michael Bloomberg might enter the race?”

Russert’s Panel of Bloomberg Skeptics Misses the Point