I've wondered previously if a bad matchup between the Democratic and Republican candidates—Hillary and McCain, for example—could create a tiny opening for the Libertarians. The WSJ's June Kronholz is puzzling over the same thing. Sort of.
[T]he political winds that fanned the Perot candidacy might be blowing once again—this time stirring talk of an independent run by another billionaire, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "More people are willing to consider an independent today than in 1992," says Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster who worked for Mr. Perot, and then for Mr. Bloomberg in 2001. He predicts the mayor could get as much as 25% of the popular vote.
This is the worst possible argument you can make for a third party run. So voters are pissed? Great! The first question you should ask is "What are they so pissed off about?" Luntz (who also worked for Pat Buchanan, so he should know better) skips that and goes to predicting a massive independent vote party vote that would rocket the candidate into… third place.
As the Bloomberg "buzz" has already achieved a Zidane-ian level of tedium, I'm going to suppose something that Luntz doesn't: What if Bloomberg won? What if he dumps $800 million in TV ads and GOTV, John McCain threatens to nuke everybody, and Hillary picks John Kerry as a running mate? He would probably be a terrible president. Look at Israel, which elected Kadima—a star-studded, kosher version of Unity08—last year and found itself with a sclerotic, incompentent, bumbling Dane Cook of a government. Look at Minnesota, where citizens seem nonplussed about the coming 10th anniversary of Jesse Ventura's gubernatorial win. Centrist parties (or politicians) whose guiding philosophies are being centrist are always failures.
UPDATE: Joe Lieberman said this yesterday:
The fastest-growing political party in America today is no party … People are registering as Independents because they're fed up with—they don't see them in the two major parties and they're sick of the fury, the partisanship and instability. And I think if the two major parties don't hear this going into '08, there is a real chance of an Independent third-party candidacy. And watch out, if that happens.
If people were sick of "the partisanship and instability," we'd be saluting President John Hagelin right now. They're actually sick of the Iraq War. Now, if Bloomberg ran on an "end the War" platform instead of a "I'm a centrist and I gots money" platform…