Trump’s on the phone right now with Zelensky, like, “By any chance, has Mike Bloomberg ever leaned on any of your prosecutors?”

And then, before he can answer: “Because I’ve got the next shipment of military aid right here and I just want to know how soon I should send it out.”

The sudden decline of Joe Biden and the sudden rise of Mike Bloomberg still hasn’t quite reached the point where Bloomy has been able to pass him in any national polls. He got close in a Quinnipiac poll taken after Iowa and before New Hampshire, finishing with 15 percent versus Biden’s 17 percent. (Bernie led with 25 percent.) Today’s new one from Morning Consult pushes him a tiny bit closer, just one thin point behind Joe. And remember that Bloomberg has nothing on the line next week in Nevada whereas Biden’s likely to suffer another dismal defeat.

There’s every reason to believe Biden will slip to third nationally after that state votes. If not before.

That 18 percent is the highest number Bloomberg’s recorded in any national poll since entering the race. And contrary to expectations, the moderate lane hasn’t gotten more crowded for him since New Hampshire, despite the strong second-place finish by Pete Buttigieg and the strong third-place finish by Amy Klobuchar. Mayor Pete was steady in Morning Consult’s at 11 percent before and after NH while Klobuchar rose just two points, from three to five percent.

Bloomberg’s still five points back of Biden in the RCP polling average as I write this. But in the FiveThirtyEight polling average, he’s only slightly more than a point behind, at 15.3 percent versus Biden’s 16.5. Sanders is the unquestioned national leader at an underwhelming 23 percent.

This is where I remind you that next Wednesday night will bring us a *hugely* consequential pre-Nevada debate, not just because it may affect the outcome in that state (remember how important Klobuchar’s last debate performance was to her surge in New Hampshire) but because it’s the first one in which Bloomberg will participate. The DNC bent the rules to include him in it, dispensing with the requirements that candidates meet a certain threshold of donations in order to qualify. Lefties were understandably irate at that, especially since Bloomberg’s not even on the ballot in Nevada. But we are where we are, and every candidate onstage will have strong reasons to go nuclear on him. Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar need to blow him up to clear the moderate lane on Super Tuesday. Bernie needs to blow him up to clear his path to the nomination. And Warren — well, Warren’s done, but she can at least get her money’s worth from her remaining time as a candidate by slaughtering a billionaire who’s bidding to buy his way to the nomination.

Who knows? If she stands out in unloading on him, she might even get a last-minute second look from progressives.

If I were Bloomy, I’d take it all in stride. “I’ll defend my record but I refuse to hit back at a fellow Democrat when together we’re facing a threat as grave as Donald Trump.” That’s been Bloomberg’s strategy all along with his colossal advertising binge: He’s used it to introduce himself to voters but also to attack Trump, not the rest of the field, which is a smart way to bolster his dubious Democratic cred, to elevate himself beyond the petty squabbling of the primary race, and to appeal to the id of America’s anti-Trump majority. He’s doing it on social media too. And Trump, for whatever strange reason, continues to indulge him in it:

To which Bloomberg replied:

Trump should be giving Sanders free press right now, not Bloomberg. Bloomberg’s pitch, fundamentally, is “I’ll punch the bully in the face and then use my campaign Death Star to turn him into Alderaan.” It’s a message that’ll work on a lot of voters who dislike the president, especially those towards the center:

https://twitter.com/AshaRangappa_/status/1227995169137422336

The more Democrats become convinced that Bloomberg gets under Trump’s skin in a special way, the more interested in him they’ll be. Back to the Morning Consult poll, though. Here’s what happened when they asked the fateful electability question, “Who do you think has the best chance of beating Trump in November?”

Catastrophic for Biden, especially since he’s also down among his base of black voters. Black Dems are now more likely to say Bernie has the best chance of beating Trump than Biden, 32/21, a number that may mean doomsday in South Carolina. And no, New Hampshire didn’t do much to help Buttigieg or Klobuchar on this score either. Mayor Pete rose two points on electability, to eight percent, while Klobuchar also rose two points, to just three percent. If you’re looking for reasons to be bullish on Bloomberg, this data is it. The other three candidates in the center are either dropping like a rock in terms of electability or gaining no altitude. If this perception of Bloomy’s viability holds on Super Tuesday — a big if, given the debates to come — I’d expect him to stand out in his “lane.”

In lieu of an exit question, go read this thread about how Bloomberg shrewdly and cynically deploys his unlimited financial resources to buy friends and allies, endorsements and flattering media coverage, and God knows what else in politics. If he doesn’t win the nomination it really will be proof that elections can’t be bought. If it can’t be done with his scratch then it can’t be done, period.