Bernie Sanders has leapfrogged into national frontrunner status, jumping over Joe Biden in four of the last five nationwide polls. But also surging is former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is now in third place. With center-Left Democrats starting to panic over Joe Biden, and casting about for someone who can stop Sanders -- whom many of them believe would be an electoral disaster up and down the ballot -- the deep-pocketed billionaire is starting to get a very serious look from a lot of people. But is he a reliable savior?
That's very much an open question; he's been spending at an eye-popping rate (more on that to come), building support with television ads, racking up endorsements, and feuding with President Trump on Twitter.
But how will he function as a fully-engaged candidate who has to debate other candidates? We simply don't know yet. He hasn't competed at all in the first four nominating contests, and has not qualified for any of the party's debates -- a fact that may change very soon, based on shifting DNC participation thresholds. He's also been invited to join CNN's Nevada forum, in which he might be pressed on a host of issues. But at some point, he's going to have to emerge from behind his heavily-managed, tightly-controlled 'online dating' approach (a comparison made by my Fox colleague Dagen McDowell) to campaigning and actually performing in real life. He has multiple vulnerabilities. First, he's a multi-billionaire former Republican with some moderate views. That doesn't exactly match the mood of his new party these days. Second, he's going to get hit hard from the Left over the police practices he endorsed in New York City. Clips like these are going to leave a mark:
Mike Bloomberg defending Stop-and-Frisk in 2013: “I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.” pic.twitter.com/KpdKgUALsL— ? (@upmtn) February 11, 2020
Audio emerges of Michael Bloomberg in 2015 defending stop and frisk and racial profiling in policing:— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) February 11, 2020
“The way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw them up against the wall and frisk them.”
Bloomberg has apologized and says he no longer supports 'stop and frisk,' comically adding that he said those things 'years' ago...when he was also in his 70's. Will that response fly when others drill down on the point? AOC is already breaking out the R-word, as is Liz Warren, who's also calling him a liar. Bloomberg also has an infamous temper. He's a billionaire boss who is rarely challenged. How will he handle hostile scrutiny? There have also been rampant whispers about another oppo research shoe that's dangling over his campaign. What I've heard is that many Democrats don't want to blow him up with nuclear attacks because he's such a prodigious source of financial support for their party and causes. But if he's threatening to make a real run at the nomination, they'll do what must be done. Break glass, deploy hit. Here's a prominent liberal writer 'going there,' linking back to a 2018 Atlantic piece chronicling multiple allegations of #MeToo-style harassment and general sexism that has allegedly pervaded his leadership style:
Bloomberg is also going to have to answer for his treatment of women. I think this is going to be a bigger problem for him than stop and frisk. https://t.co/sSCuE5FQRQ— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) February 13, 2020
A series of stories about him, accumulated over decades, that suggests in the aggregate a distinct pattern when it comes to his treatment of women: reports of disparaging comments made about women’s bodies and appearances. Allegations of a deeply sexist work environment at the company that Bloomberg founded and, for many years, ran. Stories that linger like exhaust in the air every time Mike Bloomberg is mentioned as, potentially, the next president of the United States…From 1996 to 1997, four women filed sexual-harassment or discrimination suits against Bloomberg the company. One of the suits included the following allegation: When Sekiko Sakai Garrison, a sales representative at the company, told Mike Bloomberg she was pregnant, he replied, “Kill it!” (Bloomberg went on, she alleged, to mutter, “Great, No. 16”—a reference, her complaint said, to the 16 women at the company who were then pregnant.) To these allegations, Garrison added another one: Even prior to her pregnancy, she claimed, Bloomberg had antagonized her by making disparaging comments about her appearance and sexual desirability. “What, is the guy dumb and blind?” he is alleged to have said upon seeing her wearing an engagement ring. “What the hell is he marrying you for?”
It doesn't take much special insight to recognize that a billionaire competing in the 2020 Democratic primary, who is saddled with major racial and sexist baggage, might be in for an unpleasant ride. He could navigate these choppy waters with aplomb. Or he could seethe, lash out, and blow up. He's untested, so the fallout is anyone's guess. Bloomberg is still in online dating mode, flooding the zone with TV carpet bombing and shocking numbers of paid staffers. The reporting on his spending is extraordinary:
The multibillionaire behind Bloomberg L.P. has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the race, paying to make his voice omnipresent on television and radio. He has deployed his corporation in service of his campaign, reassigning employees from the various arms of his empire and recruiting new ones with powerful financial incentives, including full benefits and salaries well above national campaign norms...Entry-level field organizing work for Mr. Bloomberg, for example, pays $72,000 annually — nearly twice what other campaigns have offered. In under 12 weeks, Mr. Bloomberg’s operation has grown to a staff of thousands, with more than 125 offices around the country and a roster of slick events featuring swag, drinks and canapés...In the first quarter of his campaign alone, Mr. Bloomberg, who is not accepting political donations, spent $188 million — more than what numerous candidates in the race had spent combined.
The whole story is really quite something. Even if Bloomberg flames out, there's no question that his enormous staff, and the coterie of vendors and consultants he's using, will be extremely well-compensated along the journey. I'll leave you with some life advice from Bloomy:
Michael Bloomberg's guide to success.— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) February 12, 2020
"Make sure you're the first one in there every day and the last one to leave. Don't ever take a lunch break or go to the bathroom. You keep working." pic.twitter.com/o1d2GonKzx
I'm all for hard work, absolutely, but no bathroom breaks? Dude.