Reality No. 2: Democratic primary voters are, as Gallup put it, “thinking strategically about [their] 2020 nominee.” Here’s Gallup’s write-up from two months ago: “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.”
If it can be summed up, then, the Democratic “mood” 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.”
If the two men who might be that someone — former vice president Joe Biden and former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg — lose to Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire, that would make their “electability” somewhat less convincing. Defeat can be contagious. There are not many voters who say: “I like him — he loses a lot.”
So it’s Bernie’s moment, which has sent a wave of panic through the Democratic ecosystem. It’s like waking up from a nightmare, only to realize that you’re waking up in a nightmare.
Which helps explain why Democrats across the country will soon find themselves with a newfound appreciation for the virtues of one Mike Bloomberg, former Republican mayor of New York and billionaire founder of a financial data services empire. He might not have been exactly what they had in mind, but by Super Tuesday he’ll look like Brad Pitt.
What people don’t yet seem to have grasped is this: Bloomberg is going to spend an astronomical amount of money on this race. Probably at least $1 billion. Maybe twice that. Possibly even more. Numbers like that upend every model of every presidential race in history. He can buy every news adjacency on cable and local television stations from now until November and not make a dent in his net worth. U.S. politics has never seen such financial throw weight in a presidential campaign.
Look at it from the point of view of the “down ballot” Democratic candidates. If you’re running for the U.S. Senate, or in one of the 100 “competitive” House races, or for governor or state senate, it’s likely that one of Bloomberg’s many super PACs is going to put vast amounts of money behind your campaign with “issues” TV advertising, digital advertising, voter-registration drives and organizational support. Buttressing that will be his national campaign infrastructure, staffed and financed at a level never before seen in presidential politics.
By Election Day, every anti-Trump voter in every precinct will have been contacted repeatedly, and then driven to the polls, if need be. Which will increase Mr. or Ms. Down-Ballot Democratic Candidate’s vote by, what? Two percent? Five percent? Ten percent? It doesn’t matter. It will add untold votes to the D side of the ledger.
Well, you say, so what? Bloomberg can’t possibly win the nomination of this Democratic Party electorate, the one that almost nominated Sanders over Hillary Clinton (and wishes it had). The one that loves Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), celebrates Medicare-for-all and campaigns for transgender bathrooms. The one that’s woke, whatever that means.
That Democratic electorate, however, isn’t the Democratic electorate. Yes, that first group gets all the ink, but it doesn’t have as many votes. Someone who unifies more moderate, pragmatic Democratic voters will win virtually every big state beginning on Super Tuesday.
And as it happens, that’s when Mike Bloomberg’s campaign begins.
It isn’t hard to see the nomination as Bloomberg’s for the taking. Democrats believe they will lose to Trump with Sanders or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Many harbor “reservations” about Biden. And they know that Buttigieg isn’t going to win the Masters the first time he plays the course.
Yes, Bloomberg is a bit dull. He is not exactly charismatic. And he can be a scold. But all the things that would have made him tedious in previous presidential election campaigns make him appealing now.
If Democrats nominate anyone besides Bloomberg, they will be outspent in the general election by 2 to 1 or even 3 to 1. If they nominate Bloomberg, he will outspend Trump at least 5 to 1 and dramatically improve the party’s chances of winning seats at every level of governance.
Trump’s greatest vulnerability is the anxiety he creates. He makes people nervous. He makes his own people nervous. Bloomberg doesn’t make anyone nervous. He’s reassuring. And reassurance is what swing voters want. They’ve had their fill of angst.