Well, not quite yet. But in the spirit of the fevered speculation spurred by Michael Bloomberg's dance with a possible independent presidential candidacy, let's take the conjecture to the Nth degree, just for the fun of it.
Let's pitch forward to Election Day, 2008, and suppose the multi-billionaire Bloomberg has waged a major bid against Democratic and Republican nominees who appealed to their party bases, but not much else. Let's also suppose that, aided by massive spending on ads and aggressive help from like-thinking California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, he wins the Golden State. Finally --- and we concede we're really stretching here --- let's suppose that thanks to another torrent of ad money and an excruciatingly close three-way fracture in the electorate, Bloomberg squeaks out victories in one of the closely contested big states in the past two election: Ohio or Florida.
That's it; he just carries two states. But here's what that could mean, if the Republican and Democrat roughly split up the rest of the 48: no candidate gets the 270 Electoral College votes needed to claim the White House.
Until a few years ago, we admit this scenario would have left us puzzled about what happens next. But then the 2000 presidential election came along, and as part of the real-life civics lesson provided by that photo-finish, we recall that a White House contest in which no candidate gets a majority of the electoral votes next heads to the House of Representatives.
Of course, the Founding Fathers did not like making things easy. The vote in the House would not be a simple matter of each lawmaker casting a ballot. Nope, it's one vote per state, determined by a majority decision of its delegation (in case of a tie vote among the lawmakers, the state has to abstain). To win the presidency, a candidate also needs a majority --- in other words, at least 26 states in his or her column.
As of now, in case you were wondering, Democrats control 26 state delegations in the House, the Republicans 20 and four are evenly split. Of course, between now and the immediate aftermath of an up-in-the-air presidential election, deaths or resignations or indictments of House members could change those numbers.
Ok, we'll stop; we've had what passes for fun for us. But just remember, you heard it first (and probably last) here.
-- Don Frederick
Photo: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Credit: Kevork Djansezian/AP