Bloomberg to other Not-Bernie contenders: Drop out now and endorse me or this party is toast

A bold claim from someone who hasn’t even yet been on a ballot. The Michael Bloomberg campaign released a memo warning Democrats that the Not Bernie lane’s split threatens to leave the party with a socialist in control of a large plurality of delegates. The only solution to this, Team Bloomy says, is to have everyone else withdraw and get behind the candidate with no delegates thus far at all — and hasn’t yet gotten one vote, for that matter.

Axios reported on the highlights:

Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg’s top strategist, said: “The fact is if the state of this race remains status quo — with Biden, Pete and Amy in the race on Super Tuesday — Bernie is likely to open up a delegate lead that seems nearly impossible to overcome.”

“I don’t think many people understand the dire circumstances here.” …

“If Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar remain in the race despite having no path to appreciably collecting delegates on Super Tuesday (and beyond), they will propel Sanders to a seemingly insurmountable delegate lead by siphoning votes away from [Bloomberg].”

Votes? What votes? Bloomberg won’t even appear on a ballot at all until March 3rd, missing Saturday’s caucus in Nevada and next Tuesday’s primary in South Carolina. What are the other candidates supposed to do for the next eleven days — knit Bloomberg for President beanies? Tell their organizations, “Never mind”? If Bloomberg was that concerned about unity and votes, why didn’t he get into the race early enough to compete in the first four states, and not just Super Tuesday?

The sheer arrogance of this analysis astounds in another way as well. Let’s not forget that Bloomberg’s the Johnny-come-lately to this party, and he came expressly to split the moderate vote. At the time Bloomberg launched his campaign, the race was shaping up as a socialist love-fest jockeying to be the Not Biden, who had been in polling control of the race for months. After Biden’s lackluster performance and several rhetorical stumbles, Bloomberg got into the race to take over Biden’s moderate slot. Unfortunately, the One True Socialist has emerged as the frontrunner and now everyone else is trying to paint themselves as a unity-minded moderate in response.

Plus, let’s also not forget that Bloomberg is almost as much of a Johnny-come-lately to the Democratic Party as Sanders is. If there’s party-saving to do from one socialist in Democrats’ clothing, why would the other candidates throw their lot in with the Republican in Democrats’ clothing? At least while he has yet to run in a single primary or caucus?

That’s not to discount everything in the analysis provided by Team Bloomberg in this memo. It’s absurd to call “MRB … the clear #2 based on vote share” when he has yet to get a single vote, and won’t until March 3rd. They’re correct in predicting that Sanders will get a large plurality based on current projections:

David Plouffe, Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, tweeted in response to Nate Silver’s delegate projections through Super Tuesday — which show Sanders with 41%, followed by Bloomberg and Joe Biden with 18% each.

“If this happens, Sanders would have a pledged delegate lead he’ll never relinquish.”

That’s true … as far as it goes. The assumption in this memo is that one candidate in the moderate lane will defeat Sanders, as long as that field narrows between now and March 2nd. Even forgetting that the ballots for Super Tuesday are already set, that assumption is, er … somewhat suspect. As Allahpundit wrote last night, the latest NBC/WSJ poll shows that Sanders would beat Bloomberg by a whopping twenty points in a head-to-head match, 57/37, probably in large part due to the distaste that even some of the moderate wing have for a multi-billionaire buying the nomination.

That entirely contradicts the thrust of the memo. If Democrats really want to deny the nomination to Sanders, then the best strategy isn’t to narrow the field but to keep it expanded. The GOP uses a winner-take-all approach in most states to quickly whittle down their primary races, but Democrats allocate delegates proportionally above a threshold of viability (usually 15%). The more candidates there are getting delegates, the less likely Sanders will get to a first-ballot majority. That’s even more true as different candidates focus on friendly states — Biden in South Carolina, Buttigieg and Klobuchar in the Midwest, Warren in Massachusetts and California, and so on. In a Bernie-Bloomy head-to-head with these polling numbers, Sanders would quickly race to an insurmountable majority of delegates. In an expanded field where five or six candidates remain viable and collect delegates, the party still has options for a brokered convention.

Washington Post analyst Philip Bump sees the same issue:

While Sanders is projected to have a lead, the percentage of the rest of the delegates he needs to win will have gotten bigger. Right now he needs to win 50.3 percent of the remaining delegates. If he does as well as projected on Super Tuesday, he will have won only a bit over 40 percent of the delegates to that point, well off the 50-percent-plus pace. After Super Tuesday, then, he will need to win more than 56 percent of the remaining delegates, in part because there are far fewer delegates remaining.

That’s harder than it sounds, since delegates are awarded proportionately. Even if the field narrows to three candidates after Super Tuesday, those candidates will likely consolidate some support — and, therefore, will be more likely to hit the 15 percent threshold to earn delegates. If Sanders is at 55 percent in national polling after the field narrows and earns that percentage of delegates in each contest moving forward, he will not have enough delegates at the end of voting to clinch the nomination.

While Sanders’ lead might be “insurmountable” at that point, it might also be irrelevant at the convention. If everyone stays in and doesn’t release their delegates, the superdelegates then get added in on the second or third ballot. If that doesn’t create a winner, then eventually all delegates get released — and the brokering begins. That would allow the Democrats to keep Sanders off the ticket, if they so choose. But narrowing the field to two now would all but hand the nomination to Sanders outright.

So much for Bloomberg’s self-serving political advice, and it seems strange that Democrats would entertain it at all. This should make for a fun topic in tonight’s debate, eh? For another, here’s Mayor Bloomberg in 2011 talking about a potential 2012 Trump presidential run. “He doesn’t do everything he says,” Bloomberg tells George Stephanpoulos, “but he tries, and I’m a big fan of Donald Trump.” Unity!