At the moment, two facts inform the Democratic presidential nomination campaign.
Fact number 1: Sen. Bernie Sanders is favored to win the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. He need only attract 30% of the vote in Iowa and 33% in New Hampshire to do just that. He got 49% and 60%, respectively, the last time around (2016).
Fact number 2: Democratic primary voters and caucus attendees are, as Gallup put it, “thinking strategically about (their) 2020 nominee.” Here’s what the Gallup data show: “Six in 10 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents would prefer to see the party nominate the candidate with the best chance of beating President Donald Trump, even if that person does not share their views on key issues. By contrast, 36% say they would rather have the reverse: a candidate aligned with them on almost all the issues they care about, even if that person is not the most electable.”
These numbers are a bit skewed in favor of “electability” because the activist base is more certain to vote. But even so, the “mood” of the Democratic primary/caucus electorate is basically this: “We like Bernie. He’s a warrior. But we’re afraid if we nominate him, he’ll lose in the fall. We need someone to get the job done.”
The two candidates who might be that someone — Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg — will probably lose to Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire, which makes their “electability” less convincing, to say the least. Defeat is contagious. There are not a lot of voters who say: “I like him, he loses a lot.”
So it’s Bernie, which sets off a wave of panic across the Democratic Party eco-system. It’s like waking up from a nightmare, only to realize that you’re waking up in a nightmare. Democrats are not only going to lose, they’re going to get clobbered. Defeat really is contagious. It will spread down ballot every which way.
And it’s at that point that Democrats all across the country will suddenly find themselves with a new-found appreciation of the many virtues of one Michael Bloomberg. He might not have been what they had in mind, but by Super Tuesday he’ll look like Brad Pitt.
Look at it from the point of view of, say, Amy Klorbuchar. She’s run a decent campaign, did okay in Iowa, made a good impression all around. And for her troubles, she ends up with (say) $1million in debt (to vendors, etc). She thinks: Mike can “retire” my debt if I give him my support and help his fall campaign in Minnesota. It’s hard to overstate what a relief that would be for her. If you’re in politics, nothing is worse than losing and being left with a file folder full of unpaid bills.
Look at it from the point of view of “down ballot” candidates. If you’re running for the US Senate, or in one of the 100 “competitive” House races, or running for governor, or state Senate or state Rep, one of Mike’s many Super PACs is going to put vast amounts of money behind all of those campaigns with “issues” TV advertising, digital advertising, voter registration drives and organizational support. Buttressing that will be Bloomberg’s national campaign infrastructure, staffed and financed at a level never before seen in American presidential politics.
By election day, every Democrat and Democrat-leaning and anti-Trump voter from every precinct in the United States will have been contacted twice and driven to the polls, if need be. Which will increase Mr. or Ms. Down Ballot Candidate’s total vote by, what? 2%? 5%? 10%? It doesn’t matter. The point is that it will add votes to his or her total.
So we can say without reservation that Mr. Bloomberg is already well ahead amongst the party leaders and elected officials who attend the convention as “super delegates.” They like Mike, big time. As someone once put it, he reverses the normal flow of corruption: he pays you.
Well, you say, so what? He can’t possibly win the nomination of this Democratic Party electorate, the one that almost nominated Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton (and wishes it had). The one that loves AOC and celebrates “Medicare for All,” and campaigns earnestly for transgender bathrooms. The one that’s woke, whatever that means.
That Democratic primary/caucus electorate, however isn’t the Democratic primary/caucus electorate. They get all the ink, but they don’t have as many votes. Someone who unifies the more moderate, pragmatic Democratic electorate will win virtually every major state beginning on Super Tuesday.
As it happens (and on purpose), that’s when Mike Bloomberg’s campaign begins. And what people don’t yet seem to have grasped is this: it’s the most formidable campaign in the history of American politics. He can spend $10 billion to win the nomination, if he wants to. He can buy every news adjacency on local television stations from now until November. He can buy every CNN and MSNBC advertising slot for the next six months and it wouldn’t even be a nick in his net worth. American politics has never seen such enormous financial throw weight applied to a presidential campaign.
“I just can’t imagine him standing up there, in front of a Democratic Convention,” a well-known political journalist said the other day. And she’s right. It’s hard to imagine. It’s almost impossible to imagine, in fact.
But the third fact is: the nomination is his for the taking. Democrats know they will lose with Sanders or Warren. They harbor the gravest doubts about Joe Biden. And they know that Pete Buttigieg isn’t going to win The Masters the first time he plays the course.
Yes, Bloomberg is boring. Yes, Bloomberg is anti-charismatic. Yes, yes and yes. But he really is electable. And all the things that would make him tedious in previous presidential election campaigns make him appealing now. In the age of Trump- anxiety, having a capable guy do a good job without much fanfare seems not just reassuring. It seems inspired.
Mike Bloomberg made his fortune on data. The most basic data of the 2020 presidential campaign is this: Democrats can nominate anyone except Mike Bloomberg and be outspent in the general election by 2–1 or even 3–1. Democrats can nominate Mike Bloomberg and outspend President Trump by 5–1 or even 8–1. Do the latter and they dramatically improve the party’s chances of winning seats at every level of federal, state and municipal governance.
It’s a no-brainer.
Don’t bet on it.