“There’s a whole operation going on,” one strategist tells Politico’s David Siders, but that might be a function of cash over common sense. A day after his embarrassing performance on the Nevada debate stage, Michael Bloomberg is still building an operation to take the nomination away from Bernie Sanders. Rather than beat him in the primaries, though, Bloomberg’s aiming at the second ballot at the convention — and trying to convince everyone else to play along:
Mike Bloomberg is privately lobbying Democratic Party officials and donors allied with his moderate opponents to flip their allegiance to him — and block Bernie Sanders — in the event of a brokered national convention.
The effort, largely executed by Bloomberg’s senior state-level advisers in recent weeks, attempts to prime Bloomberg for a second-ballot contest at the Democratic National Convention in July by poaching supporters of Joe Biden and other moderate Democrats, according to two Democratic strategists familiar with the talks and unaffiliated with Bloomberg.
The outreach has involved meetings and telephone calls with supporters of Biden and Pete Buttigieg — as well as uncommitted DNC members — in Virginia, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and North Carolina, according to one of the strategists who participated in meetings and calls.
With Sanders’ emergence as the frontrunner in the presidential primary, Democrats in those states have recently raised the prospect that the democratic socialist could be a top-of-the-ticket liability.
So, the disaster of the Wednesday night debate hasn’t dissuaded Bloomberg from competing for the Democratic nomination at all, as everyone pretty much assumed. Perhaps more surprisingly, it hasn’t convinced Bloomberg to abandon his call for other candidates to drop out of the competition, but at least he’s not making that an immediate demand now.
Siders calls this “a presumptuous play for a candidate who hasn’t yet won a delegate or appeared on a ballot,” which is true enough, but. It’s not even as presumptuous as Team Bloomberg’s earlier memo calling for everyone else to drop out of the race and endorse him now before Bloomberg even took the debate stage on Wednesday. Elizabeth Warren skewered Bloomberg over that memo after the debate, suggesting that Bloomberg should withdraw and endorse her.
Other candidates are starting to discuss the potential of a brokered convention, Siders reports, but aren’t attempting to broker it now. That may not last long, though, because Democrats are increasingly convinced that’s where they will end up in Milwaukee. It even came up in the debate, where Sanders said the party should nominate the candidate with the plurality of delegates on the first ballot, a proposition that the other candidates pointedly chose not to endorse:
The question for the six candidates onstage was straightforward. Should the person who wins the most pledged delegates during the primaries, even if he or she does not have a majority, be nominated at the national convention in Milwaukee to become the party’s challenger to President Trump?
Sanders, alone, said yes. The five other candidates said that, in that scenario, the decision of who becomes the nominee should be left to all the delegates at the convention, including the roughly 770 superdelegates — the party committee members, lawmakers and other high-ranking Democrats who can only vote if the contest goes to a second ballot.
But if there is agreement that Sanders will lead the delegate race, there is similar agreement that he is not likely to be able to win a majority. If that turns out to be the case, Democrats could he headed for a chaotic national convention, one that could split the party and weaken Democrats in the general election, regardless of who ends up as the nominee.
That pretty much makes any nomination on a later ballot for anyone else but Sanders (assuming he does get the plurality) anathema to the Bernie Bros. But Bloomberg would be the worst possible choice for that scenario. How do you keep the progressives in the party by denying the plurality for the socialist and handing the nomination to the multi-billionaire capitalist who bought his way to the convention? It doesn’t matter how much money Bloomberg pours into an organization aimed at that outcome — there’s no way the DNC allows that to happen. No. Flippin’. Way. Not unless they want to give birth to the Democratic Socialist Party and a 50-state split, especially in their urban/Academia core constituencies.
But then who does get the nomination in a brokered convention? The best chance Democrats would have to remain united in that case is to find someone who appeals to all wings but who didn’t run in the primary, so as not to pick someone Sanders beat. That won’t be Hillary Clinton or John Kerry, but it could be Michelle Obama, Eric Holder, or even Oprah Winfrey in a pinch. Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer or Kansas governor Laura Kelly might be dark-horse floor candidates for their identity-politics appeal and their connection to Midwestern voters.
Whoever it is, it won’t be Mike Bloomberg. Like Bernie Sanders, his only chance at the nomination is a first-ballot majority. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize the disaster ahead if it unfolds any other way.