Iowa’s Democratic leadership disgraced itself and finally sealed the fate of their state’s first-in-the-nation privilege. If the DNC does not replace the Iowa caucuses with a more representative state like Michigan, it will be guilty of political malpractice. Coming out of the debacle, furthermore, are two deeply flawed candidates–a rather green Millennial mayor and a socialist. Democrats, especially in battleground states like North Carolina, do not need a savior, exactly, but they need to think hard about whom they want to represent their party in what is looking like a tougher and tougher general election.
Without endorsing anyone, I propose that Tar Heel Democrats take a careful look at Mike Bloomberg. You may roll your eyes at his bloated ad budget, but he is running a serious campaign that has much to recommend it in the context of an unraveling party. While it is counterintuitive that the former mayor of New York City would run well in a Southern state, Bloomberg is in many ways a good fit for NC.
Bloomberg’s commitment to North Carolina is beyond question. Shortly after announcing his campaign, he made it a priority to build an infrastructure in the Tar Heel state. Eighty Bloomberg staffers are working full time here to promote his campaign and the Democratic ticket more generally. In a conference call, he called North Carolina the “new Virginia,” expressing faith in the state’s future political development. It is assured that we would receive extensive attention and resources from the Bloomberg campaign.
And the former mayor has a good profile for North Carolina. A clear pattern has emerged over the last forty years of presidential elections here: moderates do relatively well, left-liberals get destroyed. Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama (who ran to the right of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards) carried the state, and Bill Clinton came agonizingly close to winning in it in 1992. By contrast, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and John Kerry lost by thumping margins. Polarization will likely ensure a single-digit margin no matter who the Democratic nominee is, but a socially progressive, fiscally conservative pragmatist would do far better than someone like Bernie Sanders.
Drilling down a little further, Bloomberg is a particularly good fit for the voters Democrats need to win to carry North Carolina. The future of the NCDP lies in suburban areas and, eventually, exurbs like blue-trending Cabarrus County. Polls consistently show that suburban Tar Heels value fiscal prudence above activist government, and tolerance and plularism over culture wars. Bloomberg, with his pro-business centrism, is a good exemplar of this style of politics. In fact, he resembles North Carolina business progressives like Jim Hunt to a remarkable degree.
North Carolina Democrats need to start winning federal elections. Democrats have lost three straight Senate races here as well as the last two presidential elections in a row. The party needs a candidate who fits the state and has a real chance to win, and Mike Bloomberg is as good a bet as anyone currently in the field.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.