What if Michael Bloomberg isn’t really running for the Democratic nomination at all?
It is well known that Bloomberg looked closely at running for president as an independent in one or two previous election cycles, partly because he knew his chances of winning the Democratic nomination were very remote. He decided against it in 2016 because he was certain it would hand the election to Trump.
Bloomberg’s chances of winning the nomination this year are even worse in a party given over wholly to a punitive liberalism whose hatred for wealthy and successful people like Bloomberg is its central agitation at the moment. Maybe he thinks non-Twitter based Democrats will flock to him on super Tuesday if Biden collapses, and there’s no doubt that Bloomberg thinks both Sanders and Warren are unacceptably left and certain losers to Trump.
Watching Bloomberg’s many long TV ads running out here in expensive California right now (nationwide Bloomberg’s ad buys have now reached $200 million—more than the rest of the Democratic field combined) prompts the thought that Bloomberg is setting himself up to run as an independent this year, especially if Sanders is the nominee. There’s this very interesting little detail in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article about his campaign:
The campaign paid as much as double the going rate for staff and promised jobs to workers through November, whether or not Mr. Bloomberg stays in the race. The candidate, who is funding his run entirely by himself, now has 1,000 campaign staffers.
If you’ve seen any of Bloomberg’s ads, they are sustained attacks on Trump, which look like general election ads. He doesn’t mention he is a Democrat. He may yet attack Sanders directly before Super Tuesday, especially if Sanders wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, but I am sure his thinking runs like this: Sanders (or Warren) would be a landslide loser to Trump, so it might well be possible for a well-funded independent to siphon up enough votes from disaffected Democrats, independents, and other reluctant Trump voters to win a close three-way race. Bloomberg has the resources to outspend Trump.
I am surprised that there hasn’t been any media speculation about this, or reporters asking the Bloomberg campaign direct questions such as the one posed to Trump in 2016: Will you support the Democratic nominee, no matter who it is? Maybe there’s a reason Bloomberg, unlike Tom Steyer, isn’t interested in appearing in any of the primary debates.
ADDENDUM: In reading some of the early comments, let me make clear that I don’t think this strategy will work—Bloomberg overestimates himself, his appeal, and the power of his spending—I merely want to point out what I think his rationale may be.