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Bloomberg (or another moderate) could have walked away with the Presidency due to Trump

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Michael Bloomberg, a contender for an independent run for US President has announced he will not run though for a reason that just might be completely wrong. As a famous moderate (having been in both the Republican and Democratic parties) he might just have had a very rare shot at being the first independent to win since forever.

Here's why, and what would have to happen:

  1. Donald Trump would have to win the Republican nomination. (I suspect he won't, but it's certainly possible.)
  2. The independent would have to win enough electoral votes to prevent either the Republican or Democrat getting 280.

If nobody has a majority of the electoral college, the house picks the President from the top 3 college winners. The house is Republican, so it seems pretty unlikely it would pick any likely Democratic Party nominee, and the Democrats would know this. Once they did know this, the Democrats would have little choice but to vote for the moderate, since they certainly would not vote for Trump.

Now all it takes is a fairly small number of Republicans to bolt from Trump. Normally they would not betray their own party's official nominee, but in this case, the party establishment hates Trump, and I think that some of them would take the opportunity to knock him out, and vote for the moderate. If 30 or more join the democrats and vote for the moderate, he or she becomes President.

It would be different for the Vice President, chosen by the senate. Trump probably picks a mainstream republican to mollify the party establishment, and that person wins the senate vote easily.

To be clear, here the independent can win even if all they do is make a small showing, just strong enough to split off some electors from both other candidates. Winning one big state could be enough, for example, if it was won from the candidate who would otherwise have won.

Of course, if Trump or the Democrat already have a lock on the college, and the moderate can't shake that, then the election will go to that candidate. (I don't think Trump has a lock.) The Democrats would feel quite pissed that the moderate stole the election from their candidate, but still would have no choice. The moderate would probably have trouble with them. If the moderate likes Hillary, as Bloomberg does, he's not going to do it. This is a selfish strategy, but it's the cheapest way to the presidency in a long time. If they don't spend much, they can even try it "just in case," though at the cost of burning some bridges.

In addition, with the moderate only needing to win a small number of states, their campaign could be quite inexpensive. Perhaps they need only get on the ballot in the states where they have a chance. They certainly don't need to spend much money other than in those states. The strategy will be radical enough and it would get a lot of free publicity, meaning the money spend would be low.

Will this happen? Bloomberg says no. I still think Trump won't win the Republican nomination. And Clinton may still have a lock. But it's an unusual situation to be sure.

Comments

There *was* a moderate in the race, it was Scott Walker, but OMG DID U HEAR WHAT DONALD TRUMP SAID and so nobody paid attention to Walker and he quit.

Note that when the House gets involved, each state delegation gets one vote. So the process is even more biased towards small states (and thus probably the GOP), and it might take more than your estimated 30 defections.

But there's lots more potential for surprise!

The traditional schedule has the electors cast their votes in December (while lame-duck congresspeople still hold their seats), but those votes counted in January (after the incoming congresspeople are sworn in). So results in the 2016 House elections would change the plausible coalitions/defections for a House vote. Unless... the lame-duck session moves the elector-ballot-tallying up! (I see nothing in the Constitution preventing that, so could be a simple-matter-of-legislative-fiat.)

Of course that, or any foreseeable scenario which could result in a 3rd-place finisher (and perhaps a *distant* 3rd-place finisher) becoming President, would trigger big legitimacy concerns amongst a public that values "popular vote" and "top finisher" over arcane rules from hundreds of years ago. That pressure could prevent the House from acting in purely partisan-predictable fashion.

Or, the looming prospect of a House-engineered victor could make the electors themselves decide to go 'faithless', and vote for a candidate other than their original alignments. Over 20 states have no law binding elector votes – and even in the other states, only a few seem to actually invalidate (much less replace) the faithless votes (as opposed to just punishing them after-the-fact).

So, lots of electoral/constitutional cray-cray to root for, if you're into that sort of thing. Constitutional Trumpocalypse!

And as you allude in your VP discussion, the Senate process need not pick a VP from the same 'ticket' as the House chose a President – and in fact *can't* consider the 3rd-place finisher like the House can. So for the first time since 1800, the process could elect a President and Vice President who had just been vigorously campaigning against each other.

If some third-world dictator established "democracy" following US guidelines, the rest of the world would, rightly, ask whom he is trying to fool.

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