Let me be clear. I am not bullish on the chances that Mike Bloomberg, three-time New York City mayor and Mary Poppins of the nanny state can win the Democratic nomination. His extremely unlikely plan includes ignoring the early votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, and hoping that by Super Tuesday the polls are still divided and nervous Democrats are still lukewarm on the current candidates.
But if this bet, in which he has already put 200 million dollars in the pot has any viability, last night’s Democratic debate could not have gone better for Bloomberg. In fact it was almost a blueprint of his strategy. The big story was Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders calling each other liars and generally acting like the Bickersons. This is important because Mike 2020 is counting on a scenario in which those candidates’ progressive supporters continue to hate each other and fail to form a block behind one of them.
As far as Joe Biden goes, he was fine. He’s always fine. He continues to paint himself as the safe choice an heir to Democratic hero Barack Obama. But while his steady lead has been impressive, it hasn’t grown much. He’s not attracting bevies of new voters, but rather counting on the black vote to carry him to slow and steady victory. This at least gives Bloomberg some time for his money to percolate.
Neither Sen. Amy Klobuchar nor Pete Buttigieg did much of note last night. Combined they are polling nationally at about 10 percent, but both feel like they have peaked. Bloomberg meanwhile has risen to 6.2 percent moving up in recent weeks. Since Buttigieg and Klobuchar are using the exact opposite strategy of Bloomberg, namely score an early win that can propel them, if that doesn’t happen they could be gone sooner rather than later, leaving their supporters poachable.
Tom Steyer was Tom Steyer.
While he wasn’t on the stage last night, Bloomberg’s campaign team engaged in a bizarre flurry of tweets.
Battleground states like Wisconsin will decide the 2020 election.
— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) January 15, 2020
In fairness, they didn’t get a ton of interaction and this morning many in the news media were poking at them like a suspicious looking piece of fish at a wedding dinner, but it was an interesting approach. It was trolly, but more like your goofy uncle than Trump’s tough guy tweets.
Bloomberg built a media empire and has access to enormous resources beyond just his boatloads of cash. If his weird Twitter attempt was not a huge success, it at least signaled that his team will use unconventional approaches to dress up his brand. This is likely a smart decision as “unconventional” kind of sums up his campaign’s whole approach.
But there was a more normal piece of political news last week in Bloomberg’s favor that ran a bit under the radar. He received the endorsement of Staten Island congressman Max Rose. While not a major national figure, Rose is the poster boy for the Democratic “moderates” in congress. He is the prototype of the candidates who won purple districts in 2018 and flipped the House.
If Bloomberg can get more such endorsements it could be meaningful. It not only gives him legitimacy, but also puts him firmly in Joe Biden’s lane. For Democrats in dangerous districts, Mike’s mountain of moolah will look very attractive in deciding whom to back.
This is still a wild long shot for Bloomberg. About 8 million things have to go right and nothing wrong for him to even have a chance. At some point he will need a surge of excitement and well, he’s just not a very exciting guy. But all things considered his campaign has to be thrilled with the debate, his window is still tiny, but last night it grew just a bit bigger.