The muddle in the middle is over: Bloomberg quits, endorses Biden

Four days.

It took four days for Dems to move from a seemingly intractable stalemate in the center lane of the primary that was destined to assure Bernie Sanders’s nomination to a completely clear field for new frontrunner Joe Biden.

The lesson, now as always: Don’t skip the early states, kids. Even if you have more money than God.

Axios ably summarized the Bloomberg battle plan for the race, which seemed surprisingly astute — until South Carolina:

Bloomberg bet Joe Biden was toast. He was wrong.

Bloomberg bet Democrats would rally around him as the Electable One. He was wrong.

Bloomberg bet he could buy support with TV ads, while avoiding tough media interviews. He was wrong.

Bloomberg bet on a brokered convention. That could still happen, but he appears dead wrong that Democrats would turn to him as their savior.

He ended up spending $5.1 million per delegate and won exactly one state. In which a grand total of 351 people voted. And isn’t even a state.

Serious question: If Mike Bloomberg had qualified for the ballot in South Carolina, would Super Tuesday have looked the way it looked last night? I don’t think he would have beaten Biden in SC, given Joe’s huge margin of victory. But if he had held Biden’s numbers down by taking, say, 15 percent of the vote, maybe the media buzz about Joe over the weekend wouldn’t have been so electric. And so maybe, instead of winning Minnesota and Massachusetts and Texas last night, Biden would have fallen just a few votes short. For all the (justifiable) hype lately that Bloomberg was helping the socialist in the race by taking votes from Joe, he ended up doing Biden a much bigger favor by skipping SC, giving Joe a last clear chance to establish himself as the moderate champion. Which Biden seized with both hands.

Trump is gloating but privately he’s nervous.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1235228511314620416
https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1235232818692792320

Bloomberg replied:

A week ago it looked like Bernie Sanders would be the nominee, a favorable match-up for Trump (so long as the economy remained solid). Then Biden blew the doors off in SC, but that was okay — suddenly the race looked like a long, bitter, divisive slog, with Biden forced to try to gradually erase Bernie’s delegate lead while Bloomberg remained tied around his ankles like an anchor in key states. Now, after last night’s Joementum eruption, it seems like we may be in line for a surprisingly short race. Bernie’s not going to get much of a delegate lead nationally even if he wins big in California, and in fact might end up trailing Biden once the votes are counted. Bloomberg is now out and probably set to bankroll Biden, either by funding his campaign against Sanders or unloading on Trump ahead of the general election or both. Biden no longer has to compete with Buttigieg or Klobuchar or Tom Steyer for anti-Bernie votes either. And he has a slew of states coming up that are demographically favorable to him, allowing him to extend his national delegate lead. Which may convince fencesitting Democrats in future primaries to administer the coup de grace to Bernie in the name of uniting against Trump:

We can try counting up the “Bernie states” versus the “Biden states” that are still left on the calendar, but one of the shining lessons of last night is that some “Bernie states” aren’t as guaranteed as they seem. Minnesota and Massachusetts were supposed to be Bernie states. Biden won both. Bernie led in nearly all polls of Texas over the past two weeks. Biden won that too. Next week voters will go to the polls in Michigan, the site of Sanders’s most shocking upset in the 2016 primaries against Hillary. Given the strength of Biden’s momentum and the emerging possibility that undecided Dems are coalescing behind Joe, does anyone want to bet that Bernie’s going to hold serve there? If he doesn’t, and he begins *underperforming* his 2016 results, it’s hard to see how we end up with a long primary.

In the meantime, I’m guessing that Bloomberg’s decision to quit will erode whatever defiance is left in Elizabeth Warren about quitting the race too. I think she really, really wants to be part of that March 15th debate between Bernie and Biden in order to offer herself as a middle-ground option between them, but finishing third last night in Massachusetts has made her a joke. She might have considered soldiering on anyway if Bloomy were still hanging around and taking votes from Joe, but now that Biden’s “lane” is clear, the pressure from progressives on Warren to get out and clear the leftist “lane” for Bernie will be unbearable. She’s already getting dogged for it by Sanders surrogates like Ilhan Omar:

King Troll is trolling her over it too. If she hangs in and continues to take votes from Sanders she’ll become one of the most despised figures in the Democratic Party to Bernie cultists. In fact, Warren may have ended up enabling Biden’s journey to the nomination in more ways than one: By torching Bloomberg over his company’s NDAs during his debate debut a few weeks ago, she seems to have wounded him mortally. His upward climb in the polls halted immediately, helping Biden. For her own political health, she has to quit now before she antagonizes the left any further. Bloomberg’s withdrawal leaves her no choice.

Exit question: Will Bloomberg immediately start bankrolling anti-Bernie ads for Joe? My guess is … no. Not because Bloomy is unwilling, perhaps, but because Team Biden probably is. They’re going to have a huge task trying to reconcile with disappointed Sanders fans if they end up running Bernie off the field over the next month or two, but right now they’re relatively well positioned to do that. Sanders lost last night not because he was outspent by corporate America or because Barack Obama jumped in and took him out or whatever. He lost because black voters in South Carolina launched Biden like a rocket nationally. That’s a “fair and square” loss, relatively easy to digest. If the Bloomberg death star starts spending Bernie into the ground, though, then Biden’s looming victory becomes a sort of dirty trick played on the left by a Wall Street plutocrat. If I were Joe I’d tell Bloomy to hang back, at least for now, and try to take out Sanders myself cleanly, on the strength of Joementum. Keeping Bloomberg out of this will make party unification more feasible this summer and fall, an absolutely necessary condition to beating Trump.