Jonathan Alter, The Daily Beast:
We knew the 2016 campaign was going to be nuts, but an old Jewish guy who’s not Bernie Sanders—and a billionaire who’s not Donald Trump— taking the oath of office today as the first independent president of the United States?
Michael Bloomberg’s path to the presidency in 2016 marked a strange climax to an insane election year. It wouldn’t have been possible without both political parties falling prey to deeply unpresidential nominees. By the time Bloomberg prevailed last month in a nail-biting test of arcane provisions in the U.S. Constitution, 2016 had taken its place with the elections of 1800, 1824, and 1876 as the only presidential contests in American history resolved by the House of Representatives.
Bloomberg decided to run back in March of 2016 only when he saw that Trump and Sanders were on track to be nominated by the Republicans and Democrats. He viewed both as dangerous men who would wreck the country. And Bloomberg saw a path. He thought voters would eventually see that he had been a highly successful mayor of a city larger than all but a handful of states and was far more fit for high office than either of them. He would run as an unprecedented blend of insider and outsider—representing elites but smashing the two-party status quo that voters despised.
The journey began in mid-winter. After Trump plastered the field in New Hampshire on Feb. 9 and won by double digits on Feb. 20 in South Carolina, Republicans proved powerless to resist his hostile takeover of their party. With his opposition divided, Trump edged Ted Cruz in home state Texas on March 1, and then, on March 15, Marco Rubio in home state Florida and John Kasich in Ohio, all but eliminating all three. By then the die was cast on the Republican side, though Americans and millions watching around the world still had to slap themselves to prove they weren’t dreaming.