By Doctor Comrade
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has officially put to bed rumors that he intended to run for President as an independent. In his announcement, Bloomberg concluded, "there is a good chance that my candidacy could lead to the election of Donald Trump or Senator Ted Cruz. That is not a risk I can take in good conscience." Bloomberg knows that he is much more likely to peel off voters from Clinton than from Trump or Cruz.
Here are the possible scenarios. In a Clinton vs. Trump race, Bloomberg steals disillusioned Democrats and many independents from Clinton, who is viewed unfavorably by many Americans (especially those who aren't hardcore Democrats). In a Sanders vs. Trump race, Bloomberg steals establishment Democrats who are reticent to vote for a self-proclaimed socialist. But in both scenarios, Bloomberg stands little chance of taking Republicans away from the GOP nominee because he is more "center-left" than he is "centrist." According to elections wizard Nate Silver, Bloomberg stood no chance of winning the presidency because he would be unable to win over the Republican base: evangelicals and working-class whites. These hardcore Republicans would go for Trump or Cruz. However, he would hurt Clinton with independents and "cosmopolitans," who Silver says are progressive whites who are concentrated in urban areas that are most receptive to Bloomberg's politics.
By the model Silver quotes, Trump would only have to win 35.5% of the popular vote to give him a landslide electoral college victory.
This makes a brokered convention at the RNC less likely for two main reasons: the third-party lane of the general election is now open, and the GOP is unwilling to risk a Trump independent campaign.
In terms of a third party, Trump has sent mixed messages about bolting from the RNC. Last September, he promised to support the eventual GOP nominee. But last Thursday, Trump warned GOP leadership that if he gets screwed at the convention, he might run as an independent and take his base of support with him. That means if he goes into the convention with the delegate lead, but GOP leaders manage to uncouple his delegates on a second or third ballot, he'll become so enraged by their treachery that he'll sabotage the entire race, ensuring his friend Hillary Clinton gets elected.
Bloomberg is important to this calculus because it makes the field less crowded. If Bloomberg did run, it would close the door on another legitimate third-party candidate. In such a crowded field, it has to be assumed that the establishment--with their party organization, infrastructure, and institutional support--would carry the day, either Democrat or Republican (probably Clinton). Clinton/Sanders and Cruz/Rubio would probably end up with 30-35% of the popular vote each (going by Silver's estimates of a Clinton vs. Cruz/Rubio vs. Third Party contest), while Trump and Bloomberg divide the remaining 30-40% between themselves.
Because the third-party lane remains open, this could spell certain disaster for the GOP if the fickle Trump does abandon the party and undermine them in November. This incentivizes the RNC to conduct a fair convention in order to keep Trump in the party. If he goes into July with the delegate lead, the RNC has to honor the primary results and go ahead with Trump for the general election. His legitimacy as the Republican candidate will be undeniable, so they have to keep him. At that point, only keeping Trump in the party will give the Republicans any chance of beating Clinton.
This only raises the stakes for the next few contests. We have seen recent examples of GOP party elders firing harpoons at Moby Donald, like Mitt Romney's spirited attack against Trump last week. If the so-called establishment can't slay Donald by the convention, then it seems increasingly likely he'll be their candidate.
Check out all of HCE's 2016 coverage.