What is Michael Bloomberg Doing?

It was a fiery five-Democrat pile-up for Mike Bloomberg last night in Vegas. Was it all sound and fury, signifying nothing?

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Signs at a campaign rally for former Mayor Mike Bloomberg at Warehouse 215 at Bentley Projects in Phoenix, Arizona. February 1, 2020. (photo: Gage Skidmore)

Whatever you may think, or not think, about billionaire and one-time Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg, most of us can agree he is probably not completely stupid.

Sure, he is insulting more often than he is eloquent. He doesn’t seem to be all that skillful of a communicator: He insults sometimes just to make a point.

Bloomberg isn’t a great orator. He isn’t charming. He obviously isn’t a great debater. He isn’t very likable at first glance. He wasn’t always a Democrat.

But Michael Bloomberg didn’t become a first-generation billionaire without a decent amount of business sense. Financial empires don’t build themselves, after all.

So just what does Mike Bloomberg hope to accomplish with his presidential run? Is it a mere vanity project?

Bloomberg claims that beating Donald Trump is his only motivation. But if Bloomberg really wanted Trump defeated, a better bet might have been to go all-in on a nice, affable guy like Pete Buttigieg. Someone with relatively little baggage and a long career ahead of him.

Bloomberg could have even gone all-in for Sen. Amy Klobuchar. She is at least a bit more moderate that Sen. Elizabeth Warren and quite a bit closer to the middle ground than Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Come to that, Bloomberg could have placed earlier bets on Sen. Kamala Harris or Sen. Cory Booker, or even Andrew Yang, before any of them had to drop out of the race due to lack of funds.

That Bloomberg has instead chosen to throw his own tattered hat into the ring- and keep it in after last night- says…what?

In the beginning, Bloomberg’s candidacy seemed designed for one thing only: A giant vote of no-confidence in Joe Biden.

Though the Democratic Party and the Biden campaign still cling to the mistaken notion that Biden’s support in the African-American community will save his candidacy, they are deluded.

It is very doubtful that African-American or Latino voters in South Carolina and Nevada are going to be any more impressed with Joe Biden than were their white Democratic counterparts in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Indeed, Biden’s support among black voters, even in imaginary polls, has been slipping away. And to Mike Bloomberg of all people.

Clearly counting Biden out, Bloomberg’s candidacy also seemed designed to stop one person in particular from becoming the nominee: Sen. Bernie Sanders. Though, when Bloomberg first entered the race, that someone might have been Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Warren looked a great deal stronger earlier in the race and Wall Street wasn’t happy with the prospect of President Warren and her wealth tax.

Watching Warren lead the charge against Bloomberg last night, and all the other candidates pile on in turn, made Bloomberg look almost like the frontrunner.

Why else would everyone on that stage been coming for him so intently?

Was it for this reason that Bloomberg chose to kick sand in the faces of his fellow contenders right before his first debate by releasing a campaign memo advising Biden, Klobuchar, Warren and Buttigieg to drop out of the race, lest their division of the pie give Sanders an unstoppable delegate lead?

“[Joe Biden’s] continued presence in the race- along with that of Buttigieg and Klobuchar- will siphon votes away from the best performing Sanders-alternative (Mike Bloomberg) and increase the likelihood of a Sanders blowout.” — Bloomberg campaign memo

No wonder his fellow Democrats were less than pleased with him.

While he’s been spending $400 million in advertising alone, and probably another $400 million on lavish food at his campaign events, they’ve been exhausting themselves on the campaign trial, getting shouted down by hecklers and interrupted by topless protestors for months.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s opening shot encapsulated her own disgust that Bloomberg is trying- and succeeding- at buying his way into the race.

“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians. And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.” — Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Audible gasps came from the audience as Warren delivered her perfect line and #PresidentElizabethWarren is trending today on Twitter.

Not that that means anything.

The attacks on Bloomberg, and the strength and vitriol of those attacks, should have come as no surprise to the Bloomberg campaign, especially considering a former-employee once complied an entire book of terrible things Mike Bloomberg has said about women and presented it to him as a gag gift.

Yet, Bloomberg seemed caught off-guard by Warren’s attack, and did little more than bleat feebly about women in leadership working for his companies.

“In my foundation, the person that runs it is a woman, 70% of the people are women. In my company, lots and lots of women have big responsibilities,” was Bloomberg’s response.

Warren pounced: “I hope you heard what his defense was: ‘I’ve been nice to some women’”.

Bloomberg is, after all, Warren’s perfect heel and the perfect foil for her brand of politicking.

And by any metric, Bloomberg had a poor debate performance last night. It seems so odd that Bloomberg would have spent all that money on advertising and, apparently, no money, time, or energy preparing and practicing in debates.

However, there are now two distinct realities in politics today: What actually happened, and what happens now once various spin doctors take over.

Bloomberg may claim that getting so much attention on stage from the other contenders was a good thing, and gives a certain legitimacy to his campaign: They wouldn’t all be attacking him if they didn’t see him as a legitimate threat.

After all, look how tenderly the other candidates have treated “front runner” Joe Biden. If Biden was truly a threat to any of their campaigns, his record is a huge target on his back- his tough-on-crime vote history as bad as stop-and-frisk. Yet no one, save perhaps Kamala Harris, ever bothered to take a shot.

During last night’s debate, it was clear the other contenders on-stage had been around the political block a few more times than Michael Bloomberg. Proving there may still be plenty of value in classic campaign glad-handing, grandstanding, town-halls, kitchen tables and three-hour selfie lines.

Another Democratic billionaire is still in the race, though he failed to qualify for last night’s debate. Tom Steyer’s takeaway wasn’t soothing to Democratic nerves: “I saw the person who won the debate last night, whose name is Donald Trump.”

For his part, Mike Bloomberg agrees.

Far from considering himself out, Bloomberg was back on the campaign trail this morning, addressing supporters and making light of last night’s debate.

“How was your night last night?” he quipped to a chuckling crowd in Ohio.

“Look, the real winner of the debate was Donald Trump,” he told supporters, before reemphasizing his commitment to defeat Trump.

“That won’t happen with pie-in-the-sky promises and proposals that will bankrupt the country. Voters don’t want empty talk; they want leadership. They don’t want hand-waving and finger-pointing.”

Whatever Bloomberg’s ultimate plan, he has a good point: Winning this election is going to take much more than a sick burn.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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