Hmmm: Bloomberg jumps to first place in Florida?

This won’t help quell the Biden-collapse anxiety within the Democratic Party. Less than a month ago, Joe Biden had the Florida primary race well in hand, grabbing 41% of the vote in a St. Pete poll, more than doubling up Michael Bloomberg. Today, both candidates have had double-digit changes in support, and now Bloomberg edges out the former frontrunner, 27/26 with just a month to go before Democratic voters go to the polls.

That’s within the margin of error, but that’s not really the point:

More than 27% selected Bloomberg as their top choice. Biden secured just under 26% support in the survey.

That’s within the poll’s margin of error, which is 1.8 percentage points. But it marks a drastic shift from the previous snapshot of the race taken by St. Pete Polls.

That version showed Bloomberg in second place with 17% support. Biden, meanwhile, received 41% of the vote. That’s a loss of 15 percentage points for Biden in just two weeks, while Bloomberg gained 10 points.

What changed? Well, for one, Iowa and New Hampshire voters have now had their say in the race. While the pair of states represent a tiny fraction of the Democratic electorate — and are far more white than the party’s base as a whole — Biden has nevertheless taken a hit among some voters because of his poor performances in those states. He placed fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire.

Oh my. Bloomberg hadn’t even been included in polling until recently, and only scored a modest level of support in the first St. Pete and Florida Atlantic polls. A few hundred million ad dollars later, Bloomberg now looks very much like a player in the Sunshine State. If that’s all it takes to undercut Biden, then he wasn’t ever going to survive a frontal collision with Donald Trump.

What about Biden’s strength with minority voters? Biden’s still doing well with black voters, but Bloomberg’s coming on strong, 41.5/22.7. However, Bloomberg has blown Biden out among Hispanics, 35.4/19.7, and Bloomberg’s also edging out Biden among women, 27.9/25.7. That’s not a good sign for Biden’s firewall in other states, including South Carolina, where Tom Steyer — the other billionaire — is cultivating the ground with his own greenbacks.

This is no quick-and-dirty survey, either. It uses an automated system, which some consider a less than reliable method, but it also has a sample of over 3,000 respondents. It’s a consistent method and scope for this particular series, so while the precise landing point in this poll might be in question, the trend is not. Going from a Biden +24 to a Bloomberg +1 in three weeks has the hallmarks of a frontrunner collapse in a state that will matter greatly in a fragmented primary.

What makes that worse is that the three frontrunners in New Hampshire barely show up in this poll. Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders barely cross over the 10% mark, while Amy Klobuchar gets only 8.6%. Elizabeth Warren only draws 4.8%. There is no sense of a bump for anyone who finished in the money in either New Hampshire or Iowa, which means that they’ll get few if any delegates and the fragmentation will get worse rather than better.

Bloomberg still might not perform to expectations with voters, Byron York warns:

With the Democratic presidential field beyond the New Hampshire primary in flux, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has become the subject of intense discussion. Might he save Democrats from a lackluster lineup of candidates? Is he the great centrist hope? Can he defeat President Trump?

Maybe, maybe, and maybe. But there is another question: Would anyone be discussing Bloomberg absent his $55 billion fortune? The answer, of course, is no. But, for the moment, with Bloomberg having never been in a debate, with few voters having seen him, and with none having had a chance to vote when his name is on the ballot, Bloomberg attracts more than his share of media attention. …

What made Bloomberg different was one thing: his money. Bloomberg has risen in the polls on the strength of more than $300 million spent so far, with untold hundreds of millions more to come. But there is still that question of the voters. Many a campaign has appeared to have mojo until its first contact with voters. For Bloomberg, that test lies a few weeks, and many millions of dollars, ahead.

The money might be enough, but it’s more likely to prompt a backlash at some point. But when? If Bloomberg takes enough delegates early on to blunt Bernie Sanders’ march to the nomination, the Bernie Bros will revolt while the Democrats’ establishment look to one of their own for the nomination. That’s why Trump is shifting his focus to highlight Bloomberg as his punching bag du jour. It’s an Operation Chaos without all of the messy organizing on the ground … and it seems to be working.

Ed Morrissey Jan 28, 2022 8:31 AM ET