It’s been a tough week for Mike Bloomberg. As Democrats were going to the polls in New Hampshire last Tuesday, video emerged of the former New York mayor defending his controversial stop, question, and frisk (SQF) policy by saying minority suspects should be thrown against walls. In addition, several stories came out with multiple allegations of sexism. So it’s no surprise that he is now… in second place nationally in a new poll and first in Virginia in another?
If the opposition research dump was meant to halt his rapid rise in the polls over the past two months, it didn’t work. Even though he is not on the ballot in Nevada or South Carolina, he seems poised to have a good Super Tuesday, which has been his plan all along.
Why? Because national polls are about to become relevant. If his 19 percent in the NPR/PBS/Marist poll holds up, Bloomberg has an excellent chance to surpass the 15 percent threshold most states have to get a share of delegates.
So how is Bloomberg surging and can he really win the nomination as a former Republican, former mayor of New York City? There are several reasons to believe that he can indeed. Here a just a few.
1. It’s Not Just His Money
The central narrative about the Bloomberg campaign is that the $400 million he has already spent is the main reason for his growth in the polls. While that has clearly played a major role — his ads are ubiquitous — billionaire Democrat candidate Tom Steyer has also spent massive amounts of money and it hasn’t amounted to much. The ads are the equivalent of bringing the voters to water, but it’s Bloomberg who is making them drink.
In terms of his $50 billion fortune, it may be the fortune itself more than the ads it buys driving voters to him. First of all, it shows that he will be able to outspend Trump in a general election, as well as helping Democrat candidates down ballot. But also, the fact that his wealth dwarfs Trump’s may say to Democrats that he can hit Trump where it hurts.
2. Who Can Beat Trump?
The top concern for most Democratic voters, especially those not already in Bernie Sanders’s ideological camp, is: Who can win the general election? Bloomberg polls better than his rivals one on one against Trump, including in the battleground state of Michigan. But he has also been taking the fight to Trump and Trump has noticed. Their jibes back and forth show he is getting under Trump’s skin, and voters can see that.
3. Bloomberg Is Scooping Up Staff
In recent months the Bloomberg campaign has been hiring staff at an alarming rate. He offers very high salaries and has promised to pay through November even if he drops out. His hiring appetite has been so voracious that other candidates are struggling to fill their offices. And it’s not just political operatives — Bloomberg owns a media company and has access to all kinds of marketing talent. Already he is using Instagram influencers and other social media stars in a very modern push to sway voters.
4. Straightforward Mike
One of Bloomberg’s odd political abilities is to tell voters things that they don’t want to hear without turning them off. As a mayoral candidate he was perfectly happy to support unpopular policies on smoking in bars, banning big gulps, limiting salt intake, and a host of other issues. Now past statements about cutting Social Security and reducing health care for the elderly are coming out.
But the positive side of this coin is that voters have never seen him as someone who panders to them. With the possible exception of his recent apology for SQF, he appears to say just what he means.
Bloomberg couldn’t have a bigger target on his body at Wednesday’s debate if he had Lyme disease. He will be attacked by everyone on the stage as an out-of-touch racist billionaire trying to buy the election. But don’t expect Bloomberg to shrink like a violet under the assault.
As mayor, he took on strong government unions in New York over and over and, not for nothing, he won three elections first as a Republican then as an independent in a city that is 5 to 1 Democrat. He is not a figure who backs down.
6. Endorsements and Ground Game
Bloomberg’s financial support for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national campaign to fight gun violence founded in 2006, has endeared him to dozens of mayors across the country. He already has the endorsement of 23 mayors, more than any other candidate. This can have a massive impact on get out the vote efforts in those cities. In addition, he is catching up to Joe Biden in overall endorsements that have dried up for the former vice president after his poor performances in the first two contests.
Now, to be clear, Bloomberg not only does not have a single delegate yet, he hasn’t been on a ballot, and won’t be on the next two. He is by no means the new favorite to win, and my colleague John Daniel Davidson makes very solid points about the headwinds he still faces. But this is not the pipe dream it seemed like two months ago.
The failure of the opposition research over the past week to stunt Bloomberg’s growth has been telling. Remember, SQF was a controversial policy when he ran for mayor in 2009 in a city that has high black and Latino populations. In addition, allegations of sexism might be blunted by the fact that he is trying to run against Trump, whom most Democrats also view as sexist.
Bloomberg has a long way to go. In many ways, he has barely even started his run for president. But aside from Sanders, it is hard to argue that any other Democrat in the race has a significantly better chance than he does. That could change fast, but for now, everything seems to be coming up Bloomberg.