THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE'S TIME HAS FINALLY COME
By FRANK LUNTZ
NY Post (reprinted in full)
September 14, 2006 -- WHEN almost half of Americans say they're "mad as hell" at politics and politicians, you have the makings of an electoral groundswell.
When 81 percent of Americans say they'd be willing to consider voting for an independent candidate for president, you have the makings of a political revolution.
Okay, the rhetoric may be a bit overheated, but the American electorate is hot, angry and now, for the first time, afraid. We were always sure the future would be better than the past, but no longer.
The national mood is not just anti-incumbent, and it is not just anti-Republican.
Thanks to a whole lot of federal failures - Katrina, illegal immigration, wasteful spending, perceptions of economic stagnation and political corruption - we have become anti-Washington.
A credible presidential independent will be someone who is not tied to the Washington political establishment but can point to a record of results. He (or she) will say "no" to the lobbyists and special interests but still have the financial means to run a serious national campaign. Such a candidate will attract considerable attention - and perhaps some serious votes.
There's only one person in America who fits the bill: New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
A little history is in order. Back in 1992, Ross Perot, my client, hit the pinnacle of independent candidacies when, for a very brief moment, he reached nearly 40 percent in the polls and an advantage over a sitting president and a popular challenger. Sure, it didn't last, but winning 19 percent of the vote was nothing to sneeze at.
So how does Bloomberg succeed where Perot failed? First, Bloomberg has actual governmental experience of the most challenging kind - running the New York City bureaucracy. Second, he has run and won twice as a Republican in a very Democratic city. He knows how difficult a national election can be, and he is unlikely to experience a political meltdown. And third, Bloomberg isn't cheap. In both elections, he spent freely and embraced the ugly underbelly of politics - media consultants, strategists and pollsters like me - needed to win.
Right now, Bloomberg would grab 17 percent of the vote in a hypothetical race against Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton. And he receives 21 percent of the vote in a contest against Sen. John McCain and Clinton. These are already big numbers for a man whom only 40 percent can identify as the current mayor of New York.
Make no mistake: We are still more likely to say the words "madam president" than we are to elect an independent. Rudy Giuliani is still the hero of 9/11 and a more viable presidential candidate. But for the first time in almost 100 years, an independent candidate - the right independent candidate - has the opportunity to be a genuine player on the political stage.
Dr. Frank Luntz is a national pollster and political commentator. He has worked for Rudy Giuliani, Ross Perot and Mike Bloomberg.
NOTE: Dr. Luntz apparently has missed a very big element in Mayor Bloomberg's two-time victory: he ran as an independent! With the backing of the New York City Independence Party, which supplied his margin of victory in 2001, and brought him 75,000 on Column C and 47% of the black vote in 2005, Mike Bloomberg is New York's independent mayor. There are close to a million independent voters in New York City. And we are organized to pull votes. - NH