Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg pinned his presidential campaign strategy on two things:
1. An impressive debut on Super Tuesday.
He got in late and skipped the first four nominating states in part to avoid wading into the established, crowded field competing in those. He instead spent big on building up his campaign elsewhere, including more than $200 million on ads in Super Tuesday states alone.
2. Being a more viable moderate alternative to Joe Biden, particularly with black voters.
He was going to combine those two goals with a strong showing in Southern states in Super Tuesday. Neither of those things manifested for him. Joe Biden looked more than viable as 14 states cast their ballots. In his first on the ballot, Bloomberg’s coalition didn’t come together.
Here’s some data from exit polls for The Washington Post across Super Tuesday states that underscore how badly things fell apart for Bloomberg:
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Bloomberg has not won a single state
He did win American Samoa’s caucus, but his streak of losses includes states that have a large share of black voters, despite spending significant time and money and outreach to try to speak to black voters. In Virginia, for example, 6 in 10 black voters voted for Biden. One in 10 voted for Bloomberg. That was repeated throughout several other Super Tuesday states with large percentages of black voters: Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee.
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Bloomberg did not win states with more moderate Democratic voters, such as North Carolina and Virginia and Tennessee
Let’s look at Tennessee specifically. According to exit polls, he lost independents there to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Biden. He lost voters with no college degree. He lost voters who don’t like socialism and who don’t like Medicare-for-all and want to beat Trump over all else.
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Democratic voters are not all comfortable with Bloomberg dumping so much money
Yes, he’s not taking donations, but evidence suggests voters in Tennessee and Virginia — racially diverse, moderate-leaning voters Bloomberg targeted — were split over whether it’s fair to be able to spend unlimited amounts of money on a campaign. Even some voters who voted for Bloomberg didn’t think it was fair.
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There’s no evidence Bloomberg benefited from a narrower race
In Virginia, Biden won 6 in 10 voters who liked the other two moderate candidates who dropped out and endorsed him, former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. Bloomberg got 1 in 10 of those voters.
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Biden did well with voters who decided in the past few days
For Bloomberg, that means a majority of voters who were paralyzed with fear about making the wrong decision did not ultimately choose him. That’s a problem considering Bloomberg’s entire, albeit short campaign has been premised on being the person undecided Democratic voters can rely on to beat President Donald Trump.
Any way you slice it, the electorate that Bloomberg tried to build his campaign on — black voters, moderate voters, people looking for a non-Sanders alternative — wasn’t there Tuesday.
That’s not to say Bloomberg didn’t win any votes at all. He consistently beat Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., in these states with large percentages of black voters, such as Tennessee, where The Washington Post’s Holly Bailey reported over the weekend that black voters in Memphis were torn between Biden and Bloomberg. He came in second in Colorado to Sanders, winning at least eight counties there.
But overall, Bloomberg’s campaign has to be asking tough questions now as they decide whether to continue. (Certainly Bloomberg, worth an estimated $60 billion, has the means to keep going all the way to the conventions in July no matter what the results are.) Questions such as:
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Was Bloomberg an inherently weak candidate?
There are women who say he made derogatory jokes or comments to them and, in one case, about her pregnancy. His concerted effort to reach out to black voters always was going to be tough given his record of supporting harsh policing tactics when he was mayor of New York, something he apologized for days before he entered the race. He struggled to defend these things on the debate stage, sometimes making things worse by reducing women’s complaints to “maybe they didn’t like a joke I said.”
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Was his decision not to participate in the first four early states a mistake?
His aim was to avoid getting dragged down by the uncertainty of such a large field and then unable to climb out of any hole that might have put him in. But if he had been on the ballot earlier, could he have blunted Biden’s game-changing momentum in South Carolina on Saturday in some way? It’s too late now.
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Did the Democratic Party lose faith in Biden?
His fourth-place finish in Iowa was a “gut punch,” as Biden described it. He was slipping in national polls behind Sanders. But as soon as the contests turned to electorates that looked more representative of the Democratic Party, with voters of color, Biden started doing better again.
Bloomberg took the stage relatively early Tuesday night in Florida, a state that does not vote for another two weeks. “Tonight, we proved something very important: We proved we can win the voters who will decide the general election,” he said, despite not having proved that.
He then pivoted to a less disputable selling point: his huge bank account. “If you’re looking for someone who . . . has the resources to defeat Trump,” he said, “I’m your guy.”
But even the effectiveness of his wealth got called into question by Tuesday’s performance. He spent more than $200 million on ads in Super Tuesday states and doesn’t have much to show for it.
Video: http://www.washingtonpost.com/video/politics/bloomberg-touts-electability-in-florida-on-super-tuesday/2020/03/03/e3a00995-c7c5-422b-b86f-d46a740061ee_video.html(The Washington Post)
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