Saturday, November 09, 2019


Mike Bloomberg hasn't even officially announced his candidacy, yet he's already found his base:

That's Bloomberg's natural constituency: #NeverTrump Republicans, of whom there are more in the media than in the population at large.

Stephens writes:
Mike Bloomberg should run for president, for two reasons that ought to be dispositive. First, he would be a very good president, potentially a great one. Second, he stands a much better chance of beating Donald Trump than anyone in the current Democratic field.
It's one thing to believe that Bloomberg would be a good president. But to believe that he's a stronger candidate against Trump than Biden, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, or Harris, all of whom defeat Trump in nearly every non-New York Times poll? That's crazy talk.
The main question is whether Democrats are inclined to allow the former New York City mayor to save them from themselves.
Oh, I see. Bloomberg can't fail -- he can only be failed, by those awful Democratic voters.
Until last week, the conventional wisdom was that they weren’t so inclined. Then came that New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll showing Trump competitive with, or ahead of, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the six battleground states that will likely decide the 2020 election.
Bret, it's one poll. A day after it was published, a Washington Post/ABC poll was released with Biden, Sanders, and Warren beating Trump nationwide by margins so large that Trump couldn't possibly eke out an Electoral College win. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but why believe one poll and pretend the other doesn't exist? Stephens's embrace of the Times poll is pure confirmation bias.
If Trump is this strong now, in the midst of his impeachment woes and all the general distaste for him, where is he going to be in 11 months in a contest against opponents with nicknames like “Sleepy Joe,” “Crazy Bernie,” or “Uber Left Elizabeth Warren”?
Trump has been saying "Sleepy Joe" and "Crazy Bernie" forever, and the polls are still in the Democrats' favor, largely because Trump's third-grade name-calling alienates voters who are -- what's the technical term? -- adults. (And "Uber Left Elizabeth Warren" is so tin-eared even Trump wouldn't use it.)
The case against a Bloomberg candidacy is that he can’t possibly win the nomination when so many Democratic primary voters want to cancel billionaires, soak the rich, and relitigate the crime-fighting strategies that defined his 12-year tenure as mayor.
You know who wants to soak the rich? The whole country. Approval/disapproval of Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax was 61%/20% in a Morning Consult poll conducted last winter. And as for Bloomberg's crime-fighting strategies, the burden is on him to explain why stop-and-frisk is gone yet crime continues to decline in New York City.
But the case for a Bloomberg candidacy is stronger and infinitely simpler: In a field divided between politically feeble centrists, unelectable progressives, and one talented but awfully young small-city mayor, he ... can ... win.

How so?

Because his money instantly neutralizes the Trump campaign’s formidable fund-raising advantage, which as of last month had twice as much cash on hand as the Obama campaign did at the same stage of his re-election campaign.
The Trump campaign seems to be wasting all its money on ads that preach to the choir; the ads aren't raising the candidate's poll numbers. And if billionaire cash were all it took to win, wouldn't Tom Steyer be leading the Democratic primaries?
Because he also neutralizes Trump’s strongest re-election argument, which is that “whether you love me or hate me, you’ve got to vote for me.” The right’s charge-sheet against today’s Democrats is that they hate capitalism, hate Israel, hate the cops, think of America as a land of iniquity, and never met a tax or regulation they didn’t love. Against Bloomberg it all falls flat.
Wait -- what was that last one? Democrats like regulation too much? And that falls flat against Bloomberg -- who's been pilloried for wanting to ban Big Gulps?
Because his views on gun control, abortion and climate change fit squarely in the Democratic mainstream without being obnoxious or frightening to middle-of-the-road America.
Really? Did Stephens see the Twitter ad the NRA ran after the election results came in last week?

The increasingly liberal voters of Virginia don't have a problem with Bloomberg's gun-control advocacy, but if you're trying to appeal to blue-collar whites in Michigan or Pennsylvania, he's more identified with opposition to gun rights than Biden or Buttigieg -- or, for that matter, Warren or Sanders.
Because even his opponents know there can be no gainsaying his ability to serve as president; or his talent for appointing competent deputies; or his mastery of the mechanics of government; or his overwhelmingly successful tenure as New York mayor; or his understanding of business and the economy; or his immediate credibility on the world stage; or his sobriety of judgment or general probity of character.
But what we've learned from the 2016 election, and from Trump's ability to keep his popularity in the low 40s over the past three years, is that millions of Americans -- including precisely the voters Stephens thinks Bloomberg could win back -- don't care about the credentials Bloomberg brings to the table. A sophisticated understanding of how the world works? The respect of Merkel, Macron, and people who go to Davos? To many blue-collar whites, those are reasons not to vote for a candidate.
Mike Bloomberg has donated more money — at least $6 billion — than Donald Trump has ever had.
Yes, but Bloomberg hasn't donated more money than most Americans think Trump has.
Because the voters who will matter in the election — that is, those who live neither in deep blue nor deep red states — want a centrist. Democrats in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona and Florida tell pollsters they want “a Democratic nominee who is more moderate than most Democrats,” ... according to a report Friday from my colleagues Jonathan Martin and Katie Glueck.
That poll question offered two choices: a candidate who is "more moderate than most Democrats" and one who is "more liberal than most Democrats." It didn't offer the choice of a candidate who is ideologically similar to most Democrats. Stephens implies that voters' ideal candidate in swing states is someone to the right of the typical party member, but that's not what the survey question says.
Oh, and because Bloomberg is what Trump only pretends to be: a bona fide billionaire and proven entrepreneur. In 2012, the Romney campaign tried to create a contest between “makers and takers.” A Bloomberg-Trump contest would be one between a maker and a faker.
You know who else was "a bona fide billionaire"? Mitt Romney. How'd that candidacy work out?

(UPDATE: I'm told in comments that I have Romney's net worth wrong -- he's only a quarter-billionaire. Still, a rich guy and a legitimate business success, and what did it get him in 2012?)
All this should terrify the Trump campaign. Yes, Bloomberg has some weaknesses as a candidate. These include age (77), a less-than-charismatic speaking style, a reputation as a scold who wants to take away your supersized fizzy drink, his (Trumpian) reluctance to release his full tax returns, and the fact that he’s a technocratic master-of-the-universe in an era of populist demagoguery.
Oh yes, let's take the tax-returns issue off the table in 2020 -- that won't be squandering an advantage, will it? And against a successful (fake-)populist demagogue who denounces shadowy elitists who run the world, let's run someone who's the living embodiment of the global-elitist class. What could go wrong? In fact, can we fake a birth certificate for George Soros so he can run? I'm sure we'd win back a lot of Trump voters that way.

Every liberal in America, even the ones who live in politically red or purple communities and who genuinely understand the thinking of those who aren't like-minded, is accused of living in a bubble -- but this really is bubble thinking. It's corridors-of-power thinking. It's not what they're thinking in the swing states. The polls will reflect that soon.

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