If Bloomberg stops anyone, it will most likely be the candidate who actually is rising: Buttigieg. Bloomberg was reportedly animated by Joe Biden’s palpable deficiencies as a candidate. But the South Bend, Indiana, mayor has already capitalized on them. He’s overtaken Biden in Iowa and out-raised him nationwide. He’s moved aggressively into Biden’s centrist lane while drawing more grassroots support than other relative moderates, such as Senators Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Michael Bennet. Were Bloomberg primarily interested in ensuring that neither Warren nor Bernie Sanders turned America into another “Venezuela,” he could have done what many other center-left Democratic establishment types have done: given Buttigieg the cash to compete with Warren’s and Sanders’s small-donor-powered campaigns.
Instead, Bloomberg is considering spending vast sums of money to muscle onto Buttigieg’s moderate turf, thus impeding his rise, even though the South Bend mayor is, by most relevant criteria, a much better candidate. Buttigieg is 37, which offers a useful contrast to the four septuagenarians (Warren, Sanders, Biden, Trump) he’s competing against. Bloomberg is 77. Buttigieg served in Afghanistan; Bloomberg didn’t serve in Vietnam. Buttigieg lives in the Midwest; Bloomberg lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan (and, at least as of 2015, in Bermuda, London, Westchester, the Hamptons, Florida, and Vail, Colorado, as well). Buttigieg has never tried to ban Big Gulp sodas. And most important, a substantial number of Democrats are actually enthusiastic about Buttigieg’s candidacy. By contrast, an October Fox News poll found that only 6 percent of likely Democratic primary voters would definitely vote for Bloomberg if he got into the race, while 32 percent definitely would not. In January, NPR asked Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents how they felt about 10 declared or potential Democratic presidential candidates. Bloomberg was the only one without a positive net approval rating.