"Everyone will move over after South Carolina": Biden fundraisers starting to ditch him for Bloomberg?

I know what you’re thinking. “Why does Mike Bloomberg need people to raise funds for him?” He doesn’t. The Times reported a few weeks ago that Bloomberg had been courting wealthy and influential Democrats and informing them up front that he doesn’t want their money and won’t accept it if it’s offered. He doesn’t need money. What he needs is to choke off the pool of money that’s temporarily available to his competition. All you have to do to join the team is promise to keep your checkbook closed for Joe Biden and the rest of the field.

That’s the only way to snuff out a candidacy, after all. Bloomberg can spend 100 dollars to every dollar Biden spends but that won’t force Joe out of the race. What’ll force him out is if he runs out of financial gas. So Bloomberg’s taken to siphoning it out of Biden’s tank.

Weird timing on this story, though. If you’re a Biden donor or bundler who’s beginning to give up on him, wouldn’t you want to at least hold off and avoid giving him bad press until tonight’s debate is over? Better yet, why not keep your powder dry until South Carolina, since Bloomberg’s not even on the ballot in that state? I assume Team Mike is pressuring Biden fundraisers to jump ship immediately and to be loud about it when they do, not just because every second counts in trying to consolidate the center around Bloomberg but because the more bad press they can generate for Biden before South Carolina the greater the likelihood that he’ll disappoint there and quit.

Jon Henes, a partner at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, has signaled to friends that he is shifting his allegiance from Biden’s campaign to Bloomberg’s bid to take on President Donald Trump, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter, who declined to be named as these decisions were made in private. Henes is one of close to a dozen other Biden fundraisers who have already decided to move toward Bloomberg, these people added…

Another key figure in Biden’s network, Brad Karp, the chairman of law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, is telling associates he will likely jump over to Bloomberg, these people added. Karp is listed by the campaign as one of Biden’s bundlers…

“Bloomberg is running a great campaign, hiring incredible people and building an impressive field operation across the country,” said a Wall Street Biden supporter who recently met with Bloomberg but declined to be named. “Also spending essentially unlimited money and we’re seeing all of that result in an impressive increase in the polls.”…

“I think everyone will move over after South Carolina,” [another] lead Biden fundraiser said.

All Bloomberg wants from them is outreach, i.e. personal appeals to their professional and social networks to support him. No doubt some of the people who’ve made the jump from Biden to Bloomy will be rolled out at campaign events over the next 10 days or so to encourage the “Biden’s campaign is sinking” narrative in the media ahead of SC. If nothing else, it’s an attempt to avert the “maximum chaos” scenario in South Carolina, in which Biden wins the primary as expected but only very narrowly, with lots of black voters peeling off to support Sanders. That victory will probably encourage Joe to go on to Super Tuesday three days later — has a candidate ever quit a primary immediately after winning a state? — but in sufficiently weak shape that all he can do is play spoiler for Bloomberg, not win any states outright himself. Dem centrists can tolerate a blowout Biden win in SC or a dead-and-buried Biden loss, but an unimpressive victory will be a new dilemma for them.

Meanwhile, some liberals are trying to come up with a positive case for nominating Bloomberg in the highly unlikely event that he begins to seriously threaten Sanders. Here’s the depressing best Eric Levitz can do for Democrats:

So, it’s conceivable that Bloomberg could, in fact, buy himself the presidency. And once in office, his personal fortune could theoretically enable him to overcome other seemingly insurmountable political obstacles. In February 2021, Bloomberg will turn 79. What would a man with more than $50 billion — and only a few years left to live — be willing to spend on securing a legislative legacy? Is it inconceivable that Bloomberg could expand the boundaries of political possibility in the Senate, by promising the Joe Manchins and Lisa Murkowskis of the world giant dark money campaign contributions (and/or, extraordinarily lucrative sinecures for their family members at a Bloomberg enterprise of their choice) if they do his bidding? Can $2 billion in bribes buy president Bloomberg a more ambitious climate law than any other Democrat could hope to pass?

This is the honest case for Michael Bloomberg. It is an argument for Democrats to accept that the best that they can hope for in 2020 is benevolent plutocracy: There is no campaign capable of defeating Trumpism through organizing and reasoned argument, so best to let a billionaire drown it in an ocean of propaganda; there’s no mass movement capable of breaking through D.C.’s gridlock, so let’s see if Lisa Murkowski has a price.

For so long we’ve allowed special interests to buy off our politicians. Isn’t it time to counter that by letting the president personally buy them off to advance the common good? Let’s see how resolute those centrist Republicans are in opposing an assault-weapons ban when Bloomy’s cutting $50 million checks to their Super PACs. If Stacey Abrams isn’t above playing ball with Bloomberg in exchange for a fat envelope, why should Susan Collins be?

Imagine the 2024 election, when Jeff Bezos buys the Republican nomination and he and President Mike drop $50 billion combined contesting that year’s election.

Exit question: We’re all going to feel very silly about the Bloomberg boomlet a week from now after he craps the bed at tonight’s debate and ends up sinking in the polls under the weight of even more oppo, aren’t we?