Just when you thought there was a shortage of men born in the 1940s running for president, Mike Bloomberg is primed to fly in for the rescue. Apparently Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, and Bill Weld are not enough. Like the other two Democrats on this list, Bloomberg would spend part of a first term past the age of 80.
Much as I’m sure he’s looking to help satiate my curiosity about how old of a human can survive in the most stressful job ever invented, the reason for Bloomberg’s latest maybe he will, maybe he won’t venture is concern over how far left Elizabeth Warren and Sanders are pulling the Democratic field on economic issues, and the more than decent odds one of them could win the nomination.
This is a perfectly reasonable concern. A majority of Americans oppose eliminating private medical insurance. Recent swing state polling by the NYT/Siena College shows Sanders and Warren in a very precarious position against Trump. Even Biden leads by only a small margin in those key states, and Bloomberg isn’t the only one wondering if Uncle Joe can go the distance.
So enter Bloomberg, stage right. What are we to think of this?
He’s probably not really going to run
There’s a geyser at Yellowstone National Park called Old Faithful. It erupts every hour or two, and likely has for hundreds of years. It’s nowhere near as consistent as the Bloomberg Presidential Tease. Since becoming mayor of NYC, Bloomberg has explored running in the primaries of both parties, plus multiple independent bids.
These thought experiments are generally taken seriously. Bloomberg won three elections in the Big Apple, and has multiple times as much money as Trump pretends he has. When you’re worth $50 billion on a bad day and have had political and governing success, plus own a media and communications empire, you’re a thing.
This never results in an actual candidacy though. Bloomberg believes in data. Each time he does this, a multitude of polls are run. And those polls always show he either can’t or is very unlikely to win. Unlike Tom Steyer, now a professional gadfly, who is participating in the campaign because he has nothing better to do and nothing else he’d prefer to dilute his fortune on, Bloomberg tends to only pick fights he thinks he’ll win.
He does like having options. The deadline for Alabama was approaching, so he filed for their primary. Even if he files in 12 other places over the next couple weeks, it doesn’t mean he’s really going to do this. Actions that would qualify as a major undertaking to others are the equivalent of getting a haircut for Bloomberg.
Better to be able to run if he wants and not, than have a window of opportunity missed. When in doubt, bet that he won’t actually go.
It’s very, very, very hard to see how he gets nominated
I can build a semi-convincing scenario for how Amy Klobuchar gets nominated. Don’t think it will happen, but it could. Have been meaning to get around to showing you how. At this moment, I can’t figure out how Bloomberg gets nominated. Who, or what is his Iowa constituency?
Probably more educated, upper income, more moderate voters who don’t have a special affinity for Biden. Great, he can share those people with Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, both of whom have been camped out in Iowa for some time and have a lot more in common with the voting base.
There’s zero overlap with Sanders, and the voters who would consider Warren and Bloomberg are currently not with Warren. That’s why she’s closer to 20% than 30% in the majority of Iowa surveys.
He could make a dent in New Hampshire. There are a lot of moderate, registered Independents who are likely to show up in the Democratic Primary this time. In previous elections, they’ve supported candidates like John McCain, Jon Huntsman, and John Kasich. Even not being named Jo(h)n Bloomberg, the mayor can grab some, or maybe even most of these votes.
He’s not taking them from Warren. They’re at the expense of Biden, Buttigieg, or if she were to somehow survive Iowa, Klobuchar. This increases the chances Sanders or Warren could win the state with a vote share in the low 20s.
Then Nevada. Are the powerful unions going to get behind Bloomberg? What about South Carolina? Will African American voters ditch Biden for the guy who supported extensive stop & frisk policies? Buttigieg has a better chance of winning over black voters in time than Bloomberg does.
If Bloomberg runs, and gets any traction whatsoever, it’s very bad for Buttigieg
At the moment, the best chance to provide a more moderate than Sanders/Warren, more lucid than Biden option is Mayor Pete. He also has the benefit of being born after the Korean War started. Buttigieg has lots of momentum in Iowa, lots of opportunity in New Hampshire, and lots of work to do everywhere else.
Bloomberg is a direct competitor to the voters who like Pete best, has unlimited resources, and was mayor of a municipality with more people in each of its 51 council districts than South Bend has in total. He could injure Buttigieg just enough to cost him a top Iowa finish, and completely mayorblock him in New Hampshire.
Forget Mayor Pete figuring out how to turn passable favorability ratings into actual support from African American voters. Forget putting Biden in his rear view mirror so that he’d get a full look from the voters he most needs to connect with. Forget doing well enough with voters of color to make the upscale white voters who already like him think he can win.
Ironically for someone worried Sanders and Warren are a bad idea and Biden isn’t strong enough, Bloomberg’s entry into the race would increase the odds of Sanders or Warren winning, and make Biden even weaker. He has a decades long record of doing things in his best interest. If Bloomberg joins the Democratic nomination contest, it would be one of the few times he’s done something clearly against his apparent goals.