It’s been less than a month since Michael Bloomberg regrettably decided to run for president, so why does it feel like the former New York City mayor and obnoxiously wealthy man has been campaigning for so much longer?
Much of that can be directly traced to the fact that Bloomberg, whose net worth is estimated to be well over $50 billion, quickly outspent the competition on TV and digital ads. (Unsurprisingly, the other billionaire in the race was the one with that original bragging right.) And as of this week, the that figure has crossed the $100 million mark. According to Advertising Analytics, from November 25th to December 10th, his average campaign spending was $3,718,778 per day.
Money can’t buy you class, but it can produce a poll bump that would be impossible to get so fast in such a crowded field. In recent polling from Quinnipiac and Monmouth, Bloomberg has garnered five percent support nationally for the Democratic nomination. As of now, Bloomberg’s path to the nomination is to bypass contests in early states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina in favor of the bevy of states with contests on Super Tuesday. To Bloomberg and co., if they spend massive amounts of money in those larger states, they can seize the lead, and thus, the nomination.
Bernie Sanders described the strategy quite astutely while speaking to reporters after a town meeting with union members in New Hampshire: “‘Hey, I can run for president because I’m worth $55 billion, and maybe I’ll take $1 billion out of that $55 billion’ — not a lot, when you’re worth that much — and … start running a massive amount of TV ads in California and, in fact, all over this country.”
The problem with that line of thinking is that money can only make you but so popular. A Monmouth University poll found close to twice as many registered voters rated Bloomberg negatively as positively (54 percent unfavorable, 26 percent favorable). As the Washington Post’s Scott Clement and Emily Guskin noted, the margin “was significantly worse than for five other Democratic candidates, as well as for President Trump” and happens to be the “same measure hampered Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016.”
That’s their polite reporter way of saying, sure, Mike Bloomberg, you presently beat Trump in a head-to-head contest, but so does a Baby Yoda meme and a liter of hot Hennessy. People do not like you, Michael Bloomberg, and if these recent campaign-related interviews are any indication of what’s to come, I doubt those figures rise. Take his response to criticism over his massive wealth and the clear advantages it provides in a presidential primary. “They had a chance to go out and make a lot of money,” Bloomberg told CBS News’ Gayle King. “And how much of their own money do they put into their campaigns?”
Then came the hustle: “I’m doing exactly the same thing they’re doing, except that I am using my own money. They’re using somebody else’s money and those other people expect something from them. Nobody gives you money if they don’t expect something. And I don’t want to be bought.”
This are the same rhetorical lines Trump employed when deflecting criticism in 2016. Bloomberg may counter that unlike Trump, he is a real billionaire, but that is not comforting. Bloomberg’s money doesn’t make him adhere more to the tenets of democracy. If it did, there wouldn’t be outstanding criticism of Bloomberg’s anti-democratic tendencies. Trump has joked about extending term limits; Michael Bloomberg has successfully done so.
Bloomberg can show this ad an infinite amount of times and it wouldn’t make some of us any less concerned about the arrogance trying his late bid for the presidency, his methodology in achieving his goal, and how it all suggests how he may govern.
Likewise, in that same interview, Bloomberg flat out lied when told King that he wasn’t asked about Stop and Frisk until he was president. Bloomberg was already late on apologizing for his ardent support of the practice that was ultimately ruled to be unconstitutional – around the same time he needs to win over some of the very Black folks he used to advocate police to profile – but it’s even more insulting to follow that curiously timed apology with lying to Gayle King of all people.
To start, Bloomberg was asked about stop and frisk in January. I’m not your Joe Biden loving uncle in the barbershop (true story), but I sure have a hard time believing Bloomberg is somehow going to convince a significant number of Black voters to flee Joe Biden to support a plutocrat into racial profiling and lying to Oprah’s best friend. It’s not my money to waste, but I wish Michael Bloomberg’s messianic complex could be channeled more efficiently.
While it’s nice of him to pull out the spare change in his pocket and donate $10 million to Democrats supporting impeachment that are being targeted by the GOP, but where could the $100 million already spent on a vanity presidential bid? In a month, no less, which means our suffering has only just begun.
I know Michael Bloomberg does not care what I, a person I imagine he’d immediately dismiss as a “poor,” thinks about his dreams of buying an American presidential election, all his own. However, I do know that I’ve already tuned out most of those commercials and scroll right on by those Facebook ads — both of which are bountiful. Because I don’t want a plutocrat who can’t tell the truth about his support of racist policy to be president. Donald Trump’s replacement shouldn’t just be a real billionaire with slightly better policies overall but still doesn’t want to pay much in taxes.
We need better than that. We need better than President Scrooge McDuck. But I guess we’ll soon see if money can transform an implausible campaign to an unstoppable one.