George Will

Bloomberg was sufficiently serious about a presidential run to ask his lawyers about the states' ballot access laws. But he has decided not to run. He probably knows that third-party candidates who win electoral votes usually have three attributes: a burning issue, a vivid personality and a regional base. Strom Thurmond in 1948 and George Wallace in 1968 had all three and won 39 and 46 electoral votes, respectively. In 1992, Ross Perot had a vivid (to put it politely) personality, and the budget deficit was a burning issue because it incorporated all discontents with Washington. He lacked, however, a regional base, so his 18.9 percent of the popular votes earned him no electoral votes.

Bloomberg would have had no regional base, unless a New York state of mind counts as a region. This city's intelligentsia, one of America's most parochial cohorts, is despondent about the city's, the state's and its own diminished political weight. Time was, the state was an incubator of presidents: In 1868, New York had a higher percentage of the nation's electoral votes than California has today, and in the 80-year span of 1868-1948, New Yorkers appeared on more than half of the two major parties' presidential tickets, and five times served as president.

But in 2010, Florida may supplant New York as the nation's third most populous state. Furthermore, it has been 46 years since the nation elected a Northeastern president, John Kennedy. Before John Kerry, the last Northeasterner nominated for president was Michael Dukakis in 1988, which was not fun. Still, three New Yorkers -- Giuliani, Hillary Clinton and Gov. George Pataki -- today have presidential yearnings of widely different degrees of plausibility. Bloomberg, who made his billions in data systems, might share with those three this datum: None of the last three national tickets that included New Yorkers -- vice presidential candidates William Miller (1964), Geraldine Ferraro (1984) and Jack Kemp (1996) -- carried the state.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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