Bloomberg’s Virtual Candidacy
By Michael Cohen, Ph.D., Chief Strategy Officer
Money might not be able to buy elections, but it’s certainly helped launch Mike Bloomberg’s virtual candidacy for president of the United States. A man out of step with his current party, Bloomberg is an open oppo book for the others on the debate stage tonight. The former Mayor of New York, my hometown, used to be a Republican, used non-disclosures to silence women (and men) in his firm, and enforced “Stop and Frisk,” a policy of overt discrimination aimed at curbing the city’s crime problems of that era.
While we are focused on his campaign for president, Bloomberg pivoted toward the Democratic party with his greatest resource: money. He bought his way into ads with President Obama by funding anti-gun causes, bought his way into Democrat congressional candidates’ hearts and minds, and bought his way on stage at Emily’s List. Bloomberg’s personality may be flat, but so is cold, hard cash. At this point, the result of Bloomberg’s spending spree is third place, nationally, behind Vice President Biden, whose campaign is on life support after disastrous finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire.
If Bloomberg’s business plan was for Biden to fall and Bernie to rise, that’s happening, and it’s earned him an invitation to the debates. He might wish that didn’t happen. The genius of the ads for Bloomberg is that the voice over is better than the candidate’s own voice. Every time someone else speaks of him, he’s better for it. Every time his very New York local voice airs, it’s not great. His ad where he’s on the stump giving a speech is stale and his joke about Trump is not funny, foretelling what it’s going to be like tonight. Flat and humorless.
That’s going to be a problem for him against a field who has debated several times and are already in fighting shape. There’s no evidence that Bloomberg has any presence, debating chops, or ability to think well on his feet. Because he has skipped all four of the first nominating contests and the debates, he has got one shot to show he belongs and can lead the charge. It’s a recipe for underperforming expectations like Biden or Jeb Bush did. If he fails to handle the stage and the expected incoming, he becomes a wealthier New York version of Tom Steyer.
But if he does reasonably well, Bloomberg certainly has enough money to make campaign lives very complicated on Super Tuesday, specifically for former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar, who also banked on Biden’s fall meaning their rise. What is just as likely to happen, though, is that the minimal viable product launch tonight of candidate Mike Bloomberg is a final release – and a well-funded mess. You can’t win the presidency as an avatar. Ultimately, the business plan fades and what’s left is the real you.