The 2008 presidential race has almost as many entrants as this year's Kentucky Derby. More Republican candidates have entered the field than Democrats. But some big names have yet to jump in the race.
The buzz has it that former Vice President Al Gore, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Fred Thompson are all considering a run for the White House.
But the biggest dark horse of all has received nary a mention: New York City's billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Yet hizzoner ranks as a pretty good bet to enter the race, according to Intrade.com, which posts odds on everything from the presidential race to the lethality of this year's hurricane season to the winners in the 2016 Olympics.
My history as an equities and options trader leads me to look for confirmation of my instincts on the future of these dark horses. The only place to go for such confirmation is the marketplace, so I turned to Intrade.com. The contracts trade in correlation with the percentage likelihood of an occurrence happening, zero being "no chance" to 100 as "certain."
On the GOP odds side, Thompson has soared into the lead, trading last at 25.8. Giuliani ranks second with the last trade at 24.3. Gingrich comes in at 2.3. On the Democratic side, Gore traded last at 10.5, or 41 points behind the front runner Clinton.
Bloomberg's numbers are intriguing. It's hard to evaluate them precisely given that so few contracts have changed hands, but his contract to announce a presidential bid as an independent last traded at a surprising 27.
You never know what the market knows, so don't count out this filly joining the race.
Things are a bit more clear-cut with the other candidates.
Check Their Teeth
In the last week, Thompson has sent clear signals he plans to enter the race. He pulled out of his contract with NBC's
Law and Order
More importantly, ther former Tennessee senator filed papers in Nashville to form the "Friends of Fred Thompson." This committee allows him to raise money and hire staff. It couldn't come too soon. The end of the second quarter is around the corner, and candidates are scrambling for funds. But Thompson has until July 15 to file officially with the Federal Election Commission.
Thompson's timing seems perfect. The top three GOP nominees have failed to capture the interest of the party's political base. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been hit from all sides over his pro-choice stance on abortion, his lack of experience in foreign affairs and his authoritarian tendencies.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney faces similar problems. Many Northeastern Republicans are pro-choice and favor some form of civil union for gays and lesbians.
The perception remains that Romney has flip-flopped on these issues from the early '90s to now oppose both abortion and gay marriage. Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), meanwhile, has taken considerable flak over his position on the recent immigration proposal in the Senate. Many in the GOP see the bill as "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.
What about the other dark horses?
I Googled "Al Gore" and found at least three Web sites on the first search page alone attempting to draft the former vice president to run. Something amazing has happened for Gore in the last seven years: positive portrayal in the mainstream media.
The jibes about such things as his alleged claim to be the inventor of the Internet have subsided, while he has transformed himself into an advocate of serious issues. His popular documentary,
An Inconvenient Truth
, about global warming, was widely acclaimed and won an Academy Award.
Gore followed with the release of a new book,
The Assault on Reason
, the aim of which is to "restore the rule of reason and safeguard our future." Gore has been able to pontificate about his favorite issues. If he were to run for president, he would have to return to the slog of elections and rhetoric. His life would revolve around the 30-second sound bites he detests.
Finally, Gore would be opposing Hillary and Bill Clinton. The Clintons have retained much of the support not only of the Democratic Party, as seen by Mrs. Clinton's long list of endorsements, but she also has connections with many of the fund-raisers who would be crucial to Gore's raising money.
The billionaire Bloomberg doesn't have to worry about raising funds. He spent $74 million and $85 million in 2001 and 2005, respectively, when he ran successfully for mayor. Estimates put his net worth in excess of $6 billion. Given that money isn't an issue, why wouldn't he run?
Bloomberg switched from being a Democrat to a Republican to become mayor in a heavily Democratic city. That strategy would be impossible on the national scene. His position on gun control has doomed any hope he might have of running as a Republican.
He would have to run as an independent. No independent -- aside from George Washington -- has ever won a presidential race, and that includes another New Yorker, Theodore Roosevelt. Moreover, Bloomberg would be challenging one of his key supporters in his successful mayoral runs: Giuliani.
Bloomberg has never been a loser. His current goal of creating sustainability for New York City --
PlaNYC 2030 -- requires substantial political will to put in place. A presidential run would threaten this plan and jeopardize his legacy.
Gingrich's personal life could be an issue. Look no further than
headlines on blogs last week about former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay saying his "adultery was different from Newt's." I don't see this type of behavior going over well in the conservative camp.
Much of the headlines came from a must-read
The New Yorker
, suggesting Gingrich may be ready to emerge again. Gingrich has harsh words for White House strategist Karl Rove in the interview.
He blasted Rove for what he called the short-term thinking of winning an election while writing off huge parts of the country, notably the Northeast. Clearly, Gingrich has his pulse on politics, pointing out the success of new French President Nicolas Sarkozy. But Gingrich would really have a shot only in France, where dalliances receive little if any attention.
Assuming I'm right, the presidential horse race will have 19 entrants -- 11 Republicans, counting Thompson, and eight Democrats. I believe Bloomberg, Gore and Gingrich will not declare. That's probably for the best. There is something to be learned from the last running of the Kentucky Derby. The most recent Derby had 20 horses, which leaves only one open slot before this race should be closed.
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