Nothing highlights the importance of North Carolina in national politics like the massive presence of the Bloomberg presidential campaign in the state. Bloomberg himself has been here twice since he launched his campaign just two months ago. More telling, though, is the huge staff he’s built in the state. News reports say he has north of 80 paid staffers on the ground, more than in any other state.
Significantly, Bloomberg announced that he’s leaving the staff in place whether he wins the nomination or not. In other words, he’s building out the type of coordinated campaign effort that usually starts in the spring or summer and is run by the Democratic Party and its affiliated campaign organizations. In a state with a gubernatorial race, US Senate contest and competitive presidential race, the impact on the general election could be huge. Republicans here will struggle to match either the resources or organization. It’s the type of effort that could push a state that’s trending blue over the line with ripple effects traveling way down the ballot.
Bloomberg’s vision for his campaign is bigger and different than anything we’ve seen in politics. The Washington Post this morning has a couple of articles that explain both its magnitude and Bloomberg’s potential. The former mayor clearly believes that Trump must be defeated but he also seems to have his eye on delivering a devastating blow to the GOP in general.
Increasingly, Bloomberg’s candidacy looks less central to the effort than the organization he’s building. Unlike most campaigns, the candidate is not the core organizing principle. Opposition to Trump is. His candidacy seems like a contingency if centrist Democrats like Biden fail in the early primary states.
As the Post points out, Bernie Sanders is surging right now in both Iowa and New Hampshire. If he wins both and Biden falls to the middle of the pack, the former vice-president will enter Super Tuesday on the ropes. Bloomberg will offer pragmatic voters an alternative, especially in more moderate states like North Carolina. On the other hand, if Biden does well in Iowa and New Hampshire and dominates in South Carolina, he would enter Super Tuesday with momentum that could end the Democratic primary sooner than many expect. In that case, Bloomberg would hand Biden the keys to a massive campaign infrastructure.
As for his candidacy itself, Bloomberg provides a strong matchup to Trump. He might not appeal to the left flank of the Democratic base, but he would offer a safe choice for swing voters in the states Democrats need to win. He would put North Carolina, Georgia and Texas in play whereas a Bernie Sanders’ candidacy would need to find a much narrower path to victory. Bloomberg’s infrastructure and message could build the big tent that makes the Democratic Party dominant again.
Bloomberg’s campaign could be transformative to our politics. His large, well-funded organization could herald a new model for the permanent campaign, one based on people more than advertising. It could shift power away from the consultant class and more toward career campaign professionals that maintain a year-round infrastructure in crucial states. He could professionalize campaigns and politics to a degree we’ve never seen. And he could deliver a blow to the GOP that leaves them staggering for years to come.