For those counting on a Mayor Michael Bloomberg's candidacy as a paved road to the White House, hedge your bets and take a deep breath.
Don't get me wrong. Bloomberg has a remarkable record in New York City. He's a leader who knows what he's doing and how to get things done.
However, the political field is strewn with third-party or independent candidates who try to buck the two-party system. Even when the major candidates are considered weak, outsiders are shunned.
Will Bloomberg be any different? He has his own considerable fortune to spend. Voters seem unhappy now with a large field of candidates, especially on the Republican side.
Fred Thompson, still unannounced, is leading the GOP field in one poll, but wait until he does get in the race. His rivals and the media will make sure his warts are uncovered.
Bloomberg is apparently going to wait until February 5, when we are almost certain to know the names of the two main-party candidates. That long wait has peril.
First, he will have to sustain some interest in his presumed candidacy--no easy task. Even more important, he will have to eventually gain access to ballots in the 50 states. Some states make it difficult even with Bloomberg's fat wallet.
Back in 1992, another billionaire named Ross Perot got in the race against Bush the elder and Bill Clinton. The tiny Texan looked good for a while, until voters found out he had some traits unsuited for the presidency. He did get 19 percent of the popular vote but zero electoral votes. He tried again in 1996 and hardly scratched.
John Anderson, a moderate Republican, emerged as an alternative to Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in 1980. Both Anderson and President Carter were buried in the Reagan landslide. Anderson was in single digits in popular votes and, of course, failed to carry a single state.
In 1968, George Wallace was a force in the race between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. But he carried only a handful of southern states based on racism.
Bloomberg is no Perot, Anderson, and a world of difference from Wallace. He will draw attention.
But his victory in November 2008, if he runs, is still a long shot at best.
By John W. Mashek