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A Major Independent Candidate? Nader
In the years leading up to 2008 observers posited various scenarios wherein a credible independent candidate could pose a challenge to the major party candidates.  Although any independent campaign would face substantial hurdles including ballot access and fundraising the broken political system seemed to offer a prime opportunity.  Campaign consultant Doug Schoen explores the topic in detail in his book Declaring Independence: The Beginning of the End of the Two Party System (Random House, Feb. 5, 2008).  Democratic strategist Joe Trippi has also argued that the right independent candidate could, by using the Internet to mobilize supporters and money, have an impact in the race.  Most of the independent candidate speculation focused on New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  Bloomberg issued occasional denials and ruled it out unequivocally on Feb. 28, 2008.  Thus the only well-known figure to mount an independent run in 2008 is consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who made his announcement in a Feb. 24, 2008 appearance on NBC News' "Meet the Press."

Others were mentioned.  In 2005 there were a few suggestions that if Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) were unable to win the Republican nomination because of opposition from conservatives, he might then run as an independent; McCain rejected such notions.  On Jan. 3, 2006 the New York Post reported that Donald Trump "flatly ruled out running for governor this year -- but hinted he may go for president in 2008."  Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) was the subject of talk about a possible independent bid, but on Sept. 10, 2007 he announced that he would neither seek re-election to the U.S. Senate, nor run for president.  Activists concerned about illegal immigration started a draft Lou Dobbs effort.  Dobbs himself has written a book Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit (Viking, Nov. 6, 2007).  

Bloomberg Speculation
The Bloomberg talk started in mid-2006.  Bloomberg ruled out a presidential run on many occasions.  For example in August 2006 he told the New York Times, "I do not know how many times I have to say I am not going to run for president.  But I’ll say it one more time.  I have no plans to run for president."  (another example).  However, his denials did not put an end to the speculation, evidenced by a steady stream of news stories.  The Dec. 11, 2006 issue of New York magazine featured a "Bloomberg '08: He's Serious" cover.  On March 26, 2007 the Washington Post ran an article headlined,"N.Y. Mayor Is Eyeing '08, Observers Say."  On May 15, 2007 the Washington Times weighed in with "Bloomberg poised for third-party campaign."  In that article, the Times' Ralph Z. Hallow, citing personal friend of the mayor's wrote that, "New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is prepared to spend an unprecedented $1 billion of his own $5.5 billion personal fortune for a third-party presidential campaign."  Newsweek put him on the cover of its November 12, 2007 issue as "The Billion Dollar Wild Card."  The New York Times rounded out the year with a Dec. 31, 2007 article by Sam Roberts, "Bloomberg Moves Closer to Running for President," which described the Mayor as "growing increasingly enchanted with the idea of an independent presidential bid...[while] his aides are aggressively laying the groundwork for him to run."

Bloomberg did a few things that have added fuel to the talk.  On June 19, 2007, he switched his registration from Republican to unaffiliated.  Bloomberg stated, "I have filed papers with the New York City Board of Elections to change my status as a voter and register as unaffiliated with any political party.  Although my plans for the future haven't changed, I believe this brings my affiliation into alignment with how I have led and will continue to lead our City."  Also, on Jan. 7, 2008, just before the New Hampshire primary, he was one of the participants in the bipartisan summit in Norman, Oklahoma convened by University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn.

However, Bloomberg put the final "no" on the matter in a Feb. 28, 2008 op-ed in the New York Times ("I’m Not Running for President, but ...").

Several efforts to draft Bloomberg or encourage him to run sprang up.
Official Bloomberg Draft Sites

Office of the Mayor

Inactive/former sites
in early 2007 Joseph Oddo of Write Consult LLC formed an independent Committee to Draft Michael Bloomberg.
"A petition for responsible government"
content by Karin Gallet

See also:
Eamon Quinn.  "Bloomberg, on Ireland Trip, Rules Out White House Run."  New York Times, August 23, 2006.
John Heilemann.  "His American Dream."  New York, December 11, 2006.
Michael D. Shear.  "N.Y. Mayor Is Eyeing '08, Observers Say."  Washington Post, March 26, 2007.
Ralph Z. Hallow.  "Bloomberg poised for third-party campaign.  Washington Times, May 15, 2007.
Sam Roberts.  "Bloomberg Moves Closer to Running for President."  New York Times, December 31, 2007.

Unity08: An Experiment That Didn't Work
Unity08 launched in May 2006 with the goal -- audacious, idealistic, or perhaps harebrained -- of electing a bipartisan ticket to the White House.  Unity08 forsaw building "a solidly-funded movement" of millions of Americans that will "take our country back from polarizing politics."  The group's website stated:
May 31, 2006 grab
"Unity08 believes that neither of today's major parties reflects the aspirations, fears or will of the majority of Americans.  Both have polarized and alienated the people.  Both are unduly influenced by single-issue groups.  Both are excessively dominated by money...  In 2008, we'll select and elect a Unity Ticket to the White House--one Democrat, one Republican, in whatever order, or independents committed to a Unity team."
Unity08 planned to select the Unity Ticket in the first part of 2008 through "a virtual and secure online convention in which all American voters will be qualified to vote."  Its several million supporters around the country were then to be enlisted to secure ballot access in the 50 states for the general election.

Unity08 might have been dismissed as a fringe idea or pie-in-the-sky thinking, but the group attracted notable backers including Doug Bailey and Roger Craver, co-founders of The Hotline; Hamilton Jordan, who served as Jimmy Carter's White House chief of staff; Angus King, who served two terms as governor of Maine as an Independent; and Gerald Rafshoon, who did media and communications for Carter as governor and president.  In addition to these eminences, Unity '08's founders council also listed many college students.

The idea garnered significant early media coverage.  Principal backers of Unity08 appeared on such programs as PBS' "NewsHour" and C-SPAN's "Washington Journal."  In a June 1, 2006 column Wall Street Journal contributing editor Peggy Noonan pointed to "the increasing and profound distance between the rulers of both parties and the people" and suggested the time may be right for a new political party.  The Washington Post's David Broder termed it an "intriguing gambit" and wrote that, "The sincerity of their motivation is as striking as the odds against their success."

Unity08 organized as a Section 527 organization.  However, in July 2006 the Federal Election Commission took up a Draft Advisory Opinion (Draft AO 2006-20) which states that, "Unity 08 must register as a political committee and therefore is subject to the reporting requirements and limitations and prohibitions of the [Federal Election Campaign] Act."

In August 2006 Unity08 announced formation of a rules committee to make recommendations on how to translate its broad vision into a specific process.  In February 2007 the group announced people could register to be delegates in its national primary.  In March 2007 Unity08 announced draft rules for its online national presidential nominating convention.

In January 2008 the departures of Doug Bailey and Gerald Rafshoon signalled the end of Unity08 [letter].  However, the unity government theme gained some currency at a Jan. 7, 2008 bipartisan summit organized by University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn in Norman, Oklahoma [statement].

See also:
Ronald Brownstein.  "Internet, Polarized Politics Create an Opening for a Third Party." Los Angeles Times, April 25, 2005.
Peggy Noonan.  "Third Time: America may be ready for a new political party."  Wall Street Journal, June 1, 2006.
David Broder.  "Politics for the Disengaged."  Washington Post, June 4, 2006.

Finally, there are many obscure presidential hopefuls waging low- or no-budget campaigns.  According to the FEC, "As of April 1 [2007], 179 individuals had filed a Statement of Candidacy and/ or Statement of Organization for the 2008 Presidential Election.  An exhaustive list of candidates may be obtained upon request from the FEC Press Office."

Copyright © 2006, 2007, 2008  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action