AUSTIN—Working in politics for almost thirty years, as Mark McKinnon has, you learn how to size up an audience. When the Texan political strategist introduced himself at a South by Southwest Interactive panel discussion on the future of American political parties, he started off by drawling, “I’m for anything that’s disruptive.”
In just over 60 days, the online constituents of Americans Elect will cast their first votes for a third-party challenger for president. And while the group has yet to enlist any of the high-profile candidates who have been rumored at various points to be interested, its executive director still sees a "perfect storm."(1)
Andrew Doctoroff, an attorney, professor, and the brother of former Bloomberg deputy mayor and current Bloomberg L.P. president Dan Doctoroff, has been touting the need for a third-party candidacy.
"I have been so upset on a personal level, on a visceral level, with the performance of the two major parties, that I was compelled to wonder and think about the feasibility of an independent presidential candidate," Doctoroff told me.(1)
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, or at the very least his staff, has in the past toyed with the notion of mounting a third-party bid for president, logistical obstacles notwithstanding. Investment banker Peter Ackerman's Americans Elect seeks to overcome those obstacles, and would seem a natural beneficiary of Bloomberg's largesse, given his open distaste for the two-party system. But if Bloomberg's is backing of the organization, which has been criticized for its lack of financial transparency, he's not saying.(2)
Answering a question this morning about the possibility of running for president, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that an independent candidate couldn’t win anyway.
“You can get on every ballot in every state probably in about two months,” said Fox 5 anchor Greg Kelly, likely referring to well-publicized efforts by the organization Americans Elect to get an independent slot on the ballot in all 50 states before next year’s election.
“That you can, but number one, party loyalty is very important, and so I think an independent candidate couldn’t win," said the mayor, who habitually criticizes both parties in Washington, and whose aides have in the past taken pains to position him as an credible independent alternative to the major-party presidential candidates.
The Times reports that a bipartisan group is days away from getting on the ballot in all 50 states, overcoming an important hurdle for a would-be third party presidential candidate in 2012. The chief operating officer of Americans Elect, Elliot Ackerman, says, “We’re removing the barrier to entry, which is 50-state ballot access."
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“For a movement to be successful, or even partially successful, you need to have a compelling figure identifying with it, whether Ross Perot or Sarah Palin or William Jennings Bryan, you need someone who can galvanize it.”
“I think certainly he’s got the financial juice to do it—who knows,” Baker said. “Here’s the interesting thing. Let’s suppose that the individual that they choose to front, the person who’s going to be the visible sign of this institution, is someone like Bloomberg. He’s a mayor of New York, a big supporter of same sex marriage, he’s leading a campaign against guns, and now a campaign against coal.