Long Odds Face Any Independent Running for U.S. President
Washington -- Could an independent candidate not affiliated with a major American political party make history and win the 2008 election for president of the United States? Two noted political operatives unaffiliated with any candidate in the 2008 race offered USINFO varying opinions on what to expect in the next presidential election.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington -- Could an independent candidate not affiliated with a major American political party make history and win the 2008 election for president of the United States?
Two noted political operatives unaffiliated with any candidate in the 2008 race offered USINFO varying opinions on what to expect in the next presidential election.
Dan Gerstein, a strategist for Democratic Party candidates, gave a qualified “yes” when asked if an independent could win the White House, while Mike Murphy, a strategist for Republicans, saw no chance for such a scenario in 2008. But Murphy did not rule out an independent winning a future presidential race.
Gerstein said a “ripe opportunity” exists for an independent like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg because neither major U.S. political party is “offering any kind of solutions to the big challenges” the country currently faces.
Bloomberg recently left the Republican Party to become an independent, a step that stoked persistent rumors he seriously is considering mounting a presidential campaign. Bloomberg denies any plans to run. Republican Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel also is mentioned frequently as a possible independent candidate.
Gerstein, who heads his own New York consulting firm, was highly critical of the Bush administration’s policies. He said the Republican candidates offer a “tired agenda” that is “hopelessly out of touch with the America of 2007,” regarding globalization, the “new contours” of the U.S. economy and the effect of technology on society.
The “overwhelming” demand in the Democratic Party, he said, is “for a repudiation of the Bush presidency.”
But that direction, Gerstein said, will not “galvanize” the overall American electorate.
Gerstein said he sees an opening for a Bloomberg-type candidate because of Senator Barack Obama’s performance. Obama, a Democrat from Illinois, is running a “reformist, anti-Washington, anti-establishment campaign” whose central premise is that U.S. politics is “broken” and incapable of solving pressing problems.
Obama’s extensive use of the Internet is helping him shatter records for fundraising, said Gerstein, adding that the Internet is the “great equalizer in American politics right now.” The Internet is allowing Obama to make a credible run for the presidency, said Gerstein. An Obama nomination by the Democrats would “largely preclude” an independent candidate “from getting much traction,” according to Gerstein.
Alternatively, Gerstein said, a Democratic nomination of Hillary Clinton would give a Bloomberg candidacy more rationale. Although Gerstein expressed great admiration for Clinton, he said the New York senator and former first lady “represents to many people the past” and “would be a real hard sell as an agent for change” because for almost 20 years the U.S. commander in chief has been either a Bush or Clinton.
Gerstein said a Clinton nomination would give a Bloomberg-like figure the “perfect opening” to mount a “solutions-oriented” campaign against politics as usual that “could both inspire and unify the country.”
A REPUBLICAN VIEW
Mike Murphy, the Republican strategist, said that even though the billionaire Bloomberg would make an unusually strong independent presidential candidate because of the New Yorker’s great wealth, his chances of being elected remain “very slim.”
“It’s very hard for an independent candidate to win” under the U.S. political system, which favors the two major political parties, said Murphy, a consultant for the DC Navigators management firm in Washington who is also in the entertainment business as a television and movie writer in Los Angeles.
Murphy, with extensive experience in previous Republican presidential campaigns, said independents are “anti-system candidates” who appeal to a narrow demographic of the American electorate, such as the voters who cast ballots for Ross Perot, a Reform Party candidate in 1992. No independent candidate, he said, is likely to pull more than 20 percent of the total votes cast.
Murphy said a Bloomberg candidacy would hurt the Democrats more than Republicans. The Democrats, he said, would suffer a net loss of about 10 votes for every 100 votes cast. That loss, in a close election, could swing the presidency to the Republicans.
Although Murphy stated he has committed to staying neutral in the Republican race, he rates the Clinton-Obama Democratic contest a very close one.
“I think Obama has a good chance to win,” said Murphy. “He represents change while Hillary is more of the same.”
PREVIOUS INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES
Many independent candidates have mounted presidential runs in the past. The most notable independents, perhaps, include Theodore Roosevelt, a former U.S. president as a Republican from 1901-1909, who ran representing the “Bull Moose” Party in 1912.
Ralph Nader, representing the Green Party, is said to have garnered enough Democratic votes to cost that party’s Al Gore the 2000 presidential election.
Less seriously, Gracie Allen, part of the famous husband-and-wife Burns and Allen comedy team, ran in 1940 on the Surprise Party ticket. To jokingly demonstrate to voters her confidence in being elected, she used as her campaign slogan the American idiom, “It’s in the bag.”
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