Bloomberg’s billions won’t decide the Democratic nomination

Michael Bloomberg has a lot of money.

To fully understand just how much money he has, consider the following: Donald Trump is, by far, the wealthiest person to ever hold the office of president. His current net worth is estimated to be roughly $3.5 billion, which if you are curious, would be 35 full crates of $100 bills.

That happens to be 14 times more money than the net worth of Mitt Romney, who was portrayed by the Obama campaign as one of America’s preeminent vulture capitalists, and a symbol of grotesque opulence during the 2012 presidential campaign.

Bloomberg, on the other hand, is worth somewhere around $64 billion, which is more than 18 times the wealth possessed by Trump, and 256 times more wealth than Romney.

To use the same example, his money would fit on 640 full crates of $100 bills. Put another way, Bloomberg could spend Trump’s entire net worth, and he would still have $60.5 billion.

So, quite wealthy.

Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks at a campaign event in Raleigh, North Carolina on Feb. 13. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Bloomberg is using that money to blanket the airwaves with his face. In his short time in the race, he has already cut 44 different ads that are running both nationwide, and in Super Tuesday primary states. The bill for these ads — and again, this is just “so far” — is already $327 million. For just the television ads.

The crazy thing, though? It seems to be working.

Bloomberg started this campaign near the bottom in national polling, routinely earning 2 or 3 percent of the vote share. Today, he sits in third place, typically pulling around 16 percent. In several of the Super Tuesday states, he is actually now leading.

Most people see this happening and it reconfirms something they already believe: money in politics equals success.

This, however, is a fallacy, and it has never been true. I’ve argued the point several times in these pages, and BDN columnist Michael Cianchette did much the same last week.

Money is important, but it does not decide elections. You need enough to make your case, but if your case isn’t compelling, no amount of money will convince people to vote for you. And indeed, in many cases, spending too much can actually backfire significantly and annoy voters enough to decide against voting for you.

Bloomberg’s rise came from one thing, and one thing only: Joe Biden’s fall.

Democrats who bought the idea that Biden was the most electable Democrat, and that his supposed moderate, blue collar sensibilities were the best chance they had to take on Trump, have begun to realize that none of that was ever true.

These voters have begun abandoning Biden, and as they look around the remaining candidates, they become panic stricken as they consider Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg or any of the other options left.

Enter Bloomberg.

Bloomberg used to be a Republican, when he first became mayor of New York. Then he became an independent. Now he is a Democrat. He seems to genuinely like business and economic growth, but he’s incredibly liberal on some issues like guns and healthcare.

His issue profile is more than acceptable to progressives, but he is probably easier to sell to the center of the country than a 78-year old socialist who didn’t earn a steady paycheck (which was a government paycheck) until he was 40 years old and who wrote a weird essay about rape fantasies.

And so, to Bloomberg they march.

But will they stay? It has been a really bad couple of weeks for Bloomberg. First, audio emerged of him saying that “all the crime [in New York] is in minority neighborhoods” and that you could simply Xerox a description of a minority male between the ages of 15 to 25 for the police when a crime occurs.

Then there was his commentary blaming an end of the practice of “redlining” — banks refusing to issue loans to entire neighborhoods, often time impoverished and minority — for the 2008 financial collapse.

Then you had renewed attention on a speech he gave at an International Monetary Fund conference where he argued that taxing poor people was good, because it make it financially difficult for them to make unhealthy choices.

And now you have his comments about transgender individuals — referring to them as “it” or “some guy wearing a dress” — causing a stir among Democrats as well.

These things collectively are far more important than money. The question, though, is whether they are important enough to Democrats to abandon Bloomberg, and allow Sanders to take the nomination.

Either way, it won’t be Bloomberg’s billions that decide the race, it will be the psychology of the Democratic primary electorate.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.