The wisdom on Mike Bloomberg’s strategy is coming into focus. He was recruited into the race by Democratic donors and insiders who saw Biden faltering last September. The former vice president failed to raise as much money has he should have and he was making gaffes that led to questions about his mental acumen. Bloomberg would provide a centrist safety net if all the moderates in the race tanked.
Bloomberg has based his campaign on three things with money being the first because it allows for the other two—organization and message. He’s build impressive statewide organizations with professional staff in a very short amount of time. He’s spent hundreds of millions of dollars on ads exposing Trump. Like Republicans who claim they needed a puncher when they nominated Trump, Democrats have one in Bloomberg. His ads are making Democrats cheer. Somebody is going after Trump the way the other candidates have not. Again, he has the money to do it.
I was skeptical then and have doubts about Bloomberg now, but I don’t question that he could be the nominee and I don’t doubt that he could beat Trump. Biden’s loss in Iowa appears to show problems within his campaign elsewhere. If Biden comes in fourth or fifth in New Hampshire tonight, he would stagger into South Carolina, desperately needing a big victory to keep his campaign viable.
Buttigieg or Klobuchar could fill the centrist spot but neither has shown that they can win with minority voters yet. If they can pick up momentum with Hispanics in Nevada or African Americans in South Carolina, maybe they can get the steam they need to make gains in Super Tuesday that launches one of them as the anti-Bernie candidate. Neither is in the top three in national polls so they’ll need a catalyst between now and Super Tuesday.
In the case that none of the centrists emerges dominant after the four early primary states, Bloomberg is waiting to pick up the mantle. He’s got organizers in virtually all of the Super Tuesday states, has been running ads for weeks and has been on a non-stop tour since he entered the race. He’ll make his third visit to North Carolina this week.
One poll also shows Bloomberg making inroads into African American voters that Biden seems to be losing. A Quinnipiac survey released yesterday shows Bloomberg has moved into third place ahead of Elizabeth Warren and just behind Biden who lost the top spot to Sanders. Biden’s support among African American voters fell from 49% to 27% with almost all of it going to the former New York mayor.
Bloomberg’s candidacy is clearly ascendant right now, in large part because he’s not participating in the early primary states. He appears to have moved beyond the primary season and is already taking on Trump. While other candidate are jockeying with each other, he’s building a national campaign. He’s betting that if he creates the perception of a fighter and a winner, then delegates will follow.
On the downside, we may have reached the point of choosing oligarchs or populists to lead our nation. In the case of Trump, we’ve got a both. Bloomberg is clearly trying to buy the nomination, but it would not work if he didn’t have a track record and a message that resonates. See Tom Steyer for comparison. Sanders, like Trump, is relying on angry voters who feel left out and hold a lot of resentment. His cry for a political revolution may appeal to a loyal and uncompromising minority, but it’s appeal is likely limited. Bloomberg’s calculation is that he can attract those voters who want a more egalitarian society but aren’t ready to burn down the house to get it. For his gamble to ultimately work, though, he’ll need to figure out to bring those Sanders supporters into the big tent he’s trying to build.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >