Hillary Clinton is not having a great week.

As her poll numbers sink amid a boomlet of support for Democratic challenger Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire, Clinton’s camp has been forced to go on the defensive over her massive speaking fees paid by big Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs.

Now comes another big problem on the eve of next month’s first primary contests: Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is thinking about launching an independent White House bid.

The very fact that Bloomberg, the Democrat turned Republican turned independent, is actively contemplating jumping into the race is bad news for Clinton. It underscores the persistent excitement gap among Democrats, many of whom — according to recent polls — don’t find Clinton likeable or trustworthy, even if they agree with her on the issues.

This late in the game, the fact that Democrats still seem to be looking at their choices and wondering, “Is that all there is?” is not only awful news for Clinton, it’s good news for Bloomberg, who has been flirting with a White House run for over a decade.

Matched head-to-head, Bloomberg seems a lot like Clinton, minus the email and Clinton Foundation donation baggage. They are both former office-holders from New York with strong Wall Street ties. They also both have liberal views on issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and gun control.

On that last issue, Bloomberg has arguably outdone Clinton. While she talks on the stump about the need for gun sale restrictions, Bloomberg has embarked on a $50 million campaign to push background check ballot initiatives in states like Maine, much to the ire of the National Rifle Association, which blasted Bloomberg for trying “to push his New York City ideas that restrict the freedoms of law-abiding gun owners.”

And Bloomberg’s coziness with Wall Street is buffered a bit by the fact that, unlike Clinton, he can self-fund a $1 billion political campaign war chest. Donald Trump has successfully used his self-funded campaign to demonstrate his independence, and Bloomberg could easily take a page from that book.

Bloomberg, of course, has liabilities. His support for comprehensive immigration reform make him an irresistible target of Republicans and the super PACs that love them.

Still, Clinton has the most to lose, and the former secretary of state must now pull out all the stops to ensure a strong Super Tuesday showing.

Bloomberg is said to be less likely to jump into the race if Clinton appears to be a lock for the Democratic nomination by March.

Which means Clinton has just a few more weeks to make a pre-emptive strike on her biggest potential threat.


(c)2016 the Boston Herald

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