Veteran GOP pollster: There's an 'interstate highway' open for Michael Bloomberg to join the race

Veteran GOP pollster Frank Luntz says there is much more than a political lane available for former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) to join the presidential race as an independent candidate.

“It’s an interstate highway,” he said in a Thursday memo.

Luntz’s reasoning came from a nationwide poll of 900 likely voters conducted by his firm, Luntz Global Partners.

The survey found that 29% of Americans would support Bloomberg in a theoretical three-way race between the former mayor, GOP front-runner Donald Trump, and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. Trump would receive 37% of the vote, while Clinton would emerge with 33%.

In a three-way race with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Clinton, Bloomberg would receive 28% of the vote. Clinton, meanwhile, would come out on top with 37% while Cruz would take 34%.

“The numbers are clear and compelling: there is definitely room for a second billionaire in this election,” Luntz wrote in the polling memo. “The last viable independent candidate, Ross Perot, got as high as 39% in the polls, finally settling at 19% on Election Day. But recall, he started the race in single digits. Bloomberg would start with more than a quarter of the vote — and the potential for much more.”

Bloomberg also would outscore Clinton, Cruz, Trump, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) among self-identified independent voters. Bloomberg would pick up more than 40% of independent voters in the poll — no matter if Rubio, Trump, or Cruz is the Republican in the race. Among Trump, Cruz, Rubio, and Clinton, none would garner more than 35% of the independent vote when Bloomberg is inserted into the race.

“The key takeaway: the only accurate projection of the impact of a Bloomberg candidacy is that he would hurt both party nominees,” Luntz wrote. “With this electorate, a Bloomberg independent candidacy would be more than just a potent force. If he runs, he will draw voters from Trump’s column, from Clinton’s column, and quite literally turn this election upside down.”

The numbers painted a significantly better potential picture for Bloomberg than a recent Morning Consult survey, which found Bloomberg grabbing 13% in a hypothetical three-way race. The survey also put Trump’s support at 37% and Clinton’s at 36% in such a scenario, but found that a Bloomberg entry would hurt Clinton more than Trump.

Rumblings about a potential Bloomberg bid have grown louder after The New York Times reported on Saturday that billionaire former mayor asked those close to come up with a campaign plan for an independent presidential bid.

The billionaire former mayor reportedly saw an opening if Trump or Cruz were the Republican nominee and if the Democratic nominee were also someone he saw as a flawed candidate. Luntz’s poll did not test a hypothetical three-way race that included Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Clinton’s main rival for the Democratic nomination.

The 73-year-old Bloomberg has reportedly said that he’d be willing to spend $1 billion of his fortune to run for the White House, according to The Times. He will reportedly make his decision by early March.

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