Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Does money talk? Bloomberg's in -- Nov. 28, 2019 column


An earthquake named Bloomberg shook up the Democratic presidential race this week.

“I think there’s a greater risk of having Donald Trump reelected than there was before,” former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday in Norfolk, a day after he announced his candidacy, adding, “And in the end, I looked in the mirror and said, `You just cannot let this happen.’”

Thus did Bloomberg acknowledge the donkey in the room. With no clear frontrunner and several Democratic candidates still bunched together in the polls, many Democrats fear none of their contenders has “it” – or enough “it” to dump President Trump.

Also sensing Democrats’ agita at this relatively late stage is former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

“I recognize running for president is a Hail Mary under any circumstances,” Patrick told reporters Nov. 14 in New Hampshire, as he launched his long-shot campaign. “This is a Hail Mary from two stadiums over.”

One enormous difference between the latecomers is that Bloomberg could buy the stadiums and pay cheering fans to fill them without blinking an eye, while Patrick is begging for money online. Nobody said politics was fair.

Bloomberg, cofounder of the financial information and media company Bloomberg LP, is personally worth a cool $55 billion, making him the ninth richest person in the world, according to Forbes magazine.

He has tapped his fortune previously to win elections, dropping at least $261 million of his own money on his three successful campaigns for mayor, The New York Times reported. Bloomberg plans to self-fund his presidential bid and is not accepting donations.

Anyone who lived through the 2016 presidential election knows better than to dismiss any candidate out of hand, but it’s not clear what Patrick brings to the field, except more moderate positions than those of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Isn’t that what Joe Biden is for?

As for Bloomberg, his great wealth automatically makes him a formidable presence. He quickly dumped $37 million on TV ads over two weeks.

And yet a snarky question hangs over him and Trump: Is this the best presidential choice America can muster: two 70-something white guy billionaires from New York?

Bloomberg is no Trump. He has more money and has given away billions – with a B – to causes he believes in. He gave $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University last year, after giving $1.5 billion earlier to his alma mater. He founded a gun control group and supports climate-related and other environmental projects.

Bloomberg and his media company are rightly taking criticism, though, for a memo from Bloomberg’s editor in chief.

Bloomberg reporters will continue to refrain from investigating him, his family or foundation and will extend the blackout to his Democratic rivals, the memo said, but they’ll continue to dig into Trump. What? A reputable news organization, which Bloomberg is, should act like one and put journalism first.

Naturally, the Democrats who have been on the campaign trail for months, if not years, lashed out at Candidate Deep Pockets.

“Michael Bloomberg is making a bet about democracy in 2020. He doesn’t need people; he only needs bags and bags of money,” Warren said in Iowa.

Sanders also complained that Bloomberg is trying to buy the election.

“We do not believe that billionaires have the right to buy elections,” Sanders said in New Hampshire, predicting Bloomberg is “not going to get very far in this election.”

History indicates Sanders may be right. In his 1992 presidential bid as an independent, Ross Perot spent $63.5 million of his own money -- $97 million adjusted for inflation, Real Clear Politics reports. Perot won 19 percent of the popular vote but not one electoral vote.

Steve Forbes’s 1996 and 2000 failed attempts to win the Republican presidential nomination cost him $70 million.

Bloomberg reportedly will skip the first four contests to focus on Super Tuesday, March 3, when 14 states will vote, including the delegate-rich states of California and Texas, as well as Virginia.

His big ad buys will make Bloomberg a household name, but that doesn’t guarantee Democrats will like Mike enough to support him.

To inspire Democrats, Bloomberg will need more than appealing videos and a catchy slogan – “rebuild America.” He’ll need solid ideas if he hopes to win votes – especially next November.

©2019 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

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