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Will Michael Bloomberg break double digits?

Primary voters want the red meat

December 3, 2019

10:30 PM

3 December 2019

10:30 PM

The big news on Monday this week was that latecomer billionaire presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg had ‘surged’ past Sen. Kamala Harris in a new poll by Hill-HarrisX. By Tuesday the big news was that Harris had departed the race. 

Was it Bloomberg’s stellar 6 percent showing that did it? Unlikely. The Harris campaign had had issues, as documented in a recent New York Times piece detailing the deep mismanagement of her campaign. One of the death blows in the piece was this line: ‘Today, her aides are given to gallows humor about just how many slogans and one-liners she has cycled through, with one recalling how “‘speak truth’ spring” gave way to “‘3 a.m.’ summer” before the current, Trump-focused “‘justice’ winter.”’ Harris was a prosecutor running both on and from her record. It was a recipe for disaster. With no momentum and no money, it was only a matter of time before she was out.

Mike Bloomberg, meanwhile, doesn’t quite have that money problem. The party that claims to disdain capitalism and also money in politics now has two billionaire presidential candidates. And that’s not counting all the millionaires in their field like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. 

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Still, Bloomberg is in his own financial stratosphere. To paraphrase Chris Rock, if Bloomberg woke up with Tom Steyer’s bank account, he’d jump out a window. His wealth is large and he’s fully ready to spend it to try to win the nomination. What’s interesting is that his 6 percent showing might actually convince people to donate money to his campaign, something he needs to qualify for the debates. Steyer has somehow managed this feat despite the fact that his own 2 percent showing in the same Hill-HarrisX poll is smaller than their 3.1 percent margin of error. 

So can Bloomberg make a run and win this thing? Probably not. 

This Democratic primary isn’t one of lanes, exactly. There really is not a ‘moderate’ lane or a ‘progressive’ lane. Sanders and Warren theoretically occupy one lane but polls have shown that if Sanders drops, his voters get spread out — including to Donald Trump. With Kamala Harris leaving the race, her voters will have to tire of accusing everyone who didn’t support her of being racist and sexist before they move on to, who, Buttigieg? The lack of lanes makes it harder for Bloomberg to fit in and fight the others because it’s not clear who is his main competition. If it were just dethroning Joe Biden, he’d have a serious shot. 

If I were a betting woman, and actually I am, I’d place a wager that Bloomberg may yet climb higher but won’t crack 10 percent and, more importantly, won’t win any of the early states. Of course, I bet against Donald Trump in 2016 but that’s exactly the kind of bet where the house makes all its money. Everyone loses those. As a lifelong New Yorker I know enough not to dismiss a Bloomberg run completely — he was a long-shot to win the mayoralty too — yet the primary process has always, but specifically this year, made it difficult for a moderate on either side to win. Primary voters want the red meat and Bloomberg isn’t going to give it to them because salt is bad for you and you really should cut down on your red meat intake.

Can he keep throwing money at the race and perhaps win some states down the road? Donald Trump is president, anything is possible. But his late start coupled with his calm demeanor and moderate positions won’t do him any favors.


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