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Tipsheet

It's On: Bernie vs. Bloomberg Already Getting Personal and Nasty

Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg are perfect foils for each other.  One is a rumpled socialist with legions of aggressive grassroots supporters.  The other is a billionaire with comically well-compensated aides and consultants, who is effectively attempting to buy support.  Both are succeeding in their 'lanes' thus far, setting up a possible collision course for the Democratic nomination.  If it eventually boils down to a two-man race -- and that's an enormous 'if' at this stage -- it'll be ugly.  We got a preview of how the gloves could come off over the past 48 hours, in which the Vermont socialist lit into Bloomberg's history of "racist" policies, and the New York billionaire retaliated with an online ad attacking the online bullying of 'Bernie Bros:'

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A few things stood out to me as I watched these clips.  First, it's rare for Bernie to tee off so explicitly and ruthlessly on a fellow competitor on his side of the aisle.  He often de-escalates and pulls punches; not this time.  He is licking his chops at the prospect of taking on someone that I'd guess he truly believes personifies the worst about American politics and capitalism.  As others have noted, just as Republicans have long dreamed of running against an actual socialist nationwide, Sanders has been waiting his entire career to take on someone like Mike Bloomberg.  Second, Bloomberg's response ad initially struck me as odd.  Fixating on the worst excesses of a campaign's most unpalatable supporters (it's true that Bernie's online army is disproportionately vile) felt like something of a strange choice.  

Why go out of your way to antagonize voters that you would need to woo into your camp in a general election setting?  But the more I thought about it, the more I understood what the Bloomberg campaign is trying to do here.  Notice how many of the ad's examples of social media nastiness are directed at other 2020 Democrats, including Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and even Andrew Yang.  This is, at least partially, a solidarity-building exercise.  Any strong supporter of another campaign has likely experienced ugly harassment from unhinged Bernie Bros, and watching this ad will likely provide catharsis and build sympathy for the entity that ran it.  These people may not be for Bloomberg, but they'll be grateful for the backup.  The idea here is to isolate Bernie and his supporters as much as possible, which is what the "unity" reference is about.  I also think people are onto something with this theory:

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The Bloomberg/Bernie Bros feud is media catnip: It's controversial, easy to cover, and many people in the press have themselves been in the rhetorical crosshairs of DSA/'red rose twitter.'  Some very serious opposition research has dropped on Bloomberg in the last few days, as we've mentioned in a number of recent posts.  If you're on that campaign, would you rather be talking about sexism, harassment lawsuits, and stop and frisk...or silly VP rumors involving Hillary Clinton, and a food fight with Sanders' virtual Alt-Left hoards?  The plan could be to keep carpet bombing the airwaves and the internet with staggering numbers of ads, while throwing enough chum in the water to crowd out the problematic policy and personal liabilities that are attracting new scrutiny.  And the spending truly is staggering:

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The fact that this sentiment is shared by millions of hardcore leftist voters (content warning) must keep the DNC bosses up at night:


Also, with a Nevada (cough) debate looming on Wednesday, will Bloomberg 'qualify' under the DNC's changed rules?  (UPDATE: He's in).  When he finally becomes a real candidate, as opposed to a largely virtual one, things could get intense.  I'll leave you with Bloomberg's cartoonishly condescending and clueless comments about farming, and Bernie's...er...glowing reviews of the Soviet Union, where he spent his honeymoon:

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UPDATE - Two brand new polls, one national and one in a key state, suggest that the Bernie vs. Bloomberg dynamic is real.  And Sanders's ceiling is getting higher:

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