Friday, November 8, 2019

GOOD LUCK

There is a small and/but “influential” group of Democratic politicians, luminaries, donors, and strategists who have done a distinctive job for weeks in keeping from public view their panic over their field of Democratic presidential candidates.

In the view of this clique, Joe Biden will finish out of the money in Iowa and New Hampshire and be done and dusted; Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are going to be finalists in the race and are both potential nominees with no chance to beat Donald Trump; and Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris have next to no chance to win the nomination and, if one of them somehow did, the chances of winning a general election are actually not that good.

This secret elite faction sees a slow-motion car crash in which a crippled Biden is by February no longer the establishment’s safe harbor, impossible to prop up after New Hampshire, at which point it would be too late – with the group too disorganized and of too many minds to settle on a consensus choice quickly enough — to stop Warren or Sanders from being the nominee.

The rational act, in the view of many in this group, even some who are publicly supporting Biden, is to get someone new in the race now who could win the nomination and then defeat Trump.

This all makes perfect sense to anyone who doesn’t believe Warren, Sanders, or Buttigieg can win a general election. 

One of the members of this group, Michael Bloomberg, is now positioning himself to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In his phone calls with fellow travelers, such as Nevada kingmaker Harry Reid and Rhode Island Democratic governor Gina Raimondo, Bloomberg has gotten encouragement.

For all the sophisticated staff and extraordinary amount of research Bloomberg consulted before making the decision to move to run, someone forgot to ask the actual voters.

Washington Post: “It is also possible that he decides to skip the first four voting states, an unorthodox strategy that could upend the regular nominating process and place far more emphasis on the Super Tuesday contests of March 3, when the race will become more nationalized — and more expensive.”

(Mini my take: There is almost no reason to think Bloomberg, despite his wealth, could skip the first four states and be in the mix. Post-Brexit voters don’t believe billionaires deserve special treatment.)

New York Times: “A Fox News poll found in late October that Mr. Bloomberg would face more opposition than enthusiasm at the outset of a primary campaign: Presented with Mr. Bloomberg as a hypothetical entrant into the primary, 6 percent of Democratic primary voters said they would definitely support him, while 32 percent said they would never vote for him.”

(Mini my take: Bloomberg reportedly went out for supper in Manhattan last night and his fellow diners encouraged him to run. Mike Bloomberg, smart as he is, seems to think that getting encouragement from rich people in Gotham City has something to do with his chances of becoming the Democratic nominee.)

So.

My take: Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, the Obamas, the Clintons, nearly all their donors, and many DNC members are terrified of the current field.  

The supporters of Warren and Sanders are all good.  They are confident their horse will get the nomination and remake the general election electorate and viva the revolution that will chase Trump from the White House.

Many Biden supporters are worried he won’t win the nomination. Many Buttigieg supporters are worried he can’t win a general.  

Unaligned Democrats are panicked. Nearly every non-socialist consultant is extremely worried.  Again, they think after New Hampshire it will be too late to stop Warren or Sanders. There IS a legitimate question for the loud and active establishment wing of the party: How do we maneuver to get a centrist nominee who can beat Trump?

On the available evidence, Michael Bloomberg is not the answer. 

By my calculation, there is 1% chance that the former New York City mayor could win the nomination, and that is mostly because he is in the 1%, with billions to spend on a possible bid. 

There’s no research that has ever been done (including by his minions) that suggests he actually has a reasonable chance to win the nomination.  If there were, the man who is 100% convinced he is the most qualified person in the entire country to be president would have gotten into the race long ago.

In the context of trying to win the nomination, Bloomberg has no constituency, no special appeal on any issues, a record that liberals will hate, no candidate skills, and an uneven temperament.   His only big advantage —  his money – will help him make up for lost time if he decides to run, but it will also pummel him with backfire, as Teams Warren and Sanders accuse him of trying to buy the nomination. The more he spends, the more resonance the accusation will have.

The only caveat is if Bloomberg in the next few days reads the results of his trial balloon and decides to go for it, thereby forcing Biden out of the race. If Bloomberg was able to then become the consensus establishment choice, he could be the nominee. But I doubt that will happen. Why would Joe Biden be scared out of the race by Bloomberg?

On paper, Bloomberg is a horrible Iowa candidate and a good New Hampshire one.  He is unlikely to meet the requirements for getting into the upcoming debates. If he somehow made it into March, his money would make him a force in states such as California, Texas, and Florida, at a time when everyone else in the race might be broke.

Bloomberg will get gobs of coverage in the next few days. Perhaps his poll numbers will flare up, although that seems unlikely. If they DO flare up, he will be assailed from many directions. There’s no doubt that Trump doesn’t want to run against Bloomberg and would make mischief in the Democratic primary to try to stop him, just as Team Trump has done with Biden.

But it won’t just be Trump.

Bloomberg’s credentials (mayor of Gotham City, starting his successful business, and his extraordinary philanthropy) are just not going to mean much to primary and caucus voters. His work on climate and guns is substantial, but his issue positions are no more appealing than those of the other candidates, and in fact he is in some ways to the right of them.  What’s he going to say about taxing the rich and the Green New Deal?  Like Biden, he has lost more than a step with age. His advisers will try to devise some unique ways to market him in New Hampshire and beyond, but they are selling a product that many of the targeted consumers won’t want.

It will be interesting to see how Bloomberg fares in polling matchups with Trump. Bloomberg’s team and the man himself always overestimate how well known he is around the country.  He is a 70-something, divorced, unmarried, Jewish, short billionaire, with a history of backing stop-and-frisk, charter schools, and the rights of plutocrats.  Will he be the candidate of teachers, African Americans, labor? Seems doubtful.

Much of the media loves Bloomberg and loves new things, so he has a chance for a strong start that could encourage him to declare his candidacy. But this could also blow up on the launch pad. 

Biden is in New Hampshire today filing his candidacy papers. Let’s see how he reacts.

Bloomberg will not win the Democratic nomination based on his money or the strong support he has among people in the 10021 Zip Code.  If he becomes the nominee, it will be because he convinces millions of caucus and primary voters that they should put their children’s future in his hands. 

Good luck.

****

The Washington Post got an early copy of Anonymous’ book about Donald Trump and wrote a breathless piece about its “revelations.”

My take: The New York Times got a copy too and reviewed it:

“Anonymous has seen disturbing things. Anonymous has heard disturbing things. You, the reader, will already recognize most of what Anonymous has seen and heard as revealed in this book if you have been paying any attention to the news.”

Given the impeachment allegations, I think we can safely say that this book is not going to change any paradigms. Anonymous includes almost no specific scenes, ostensibly to hide the author’s identity. And some of the few specific allegations have been denied and lack backup.

Good luck.

****

On impeachment, there is more talk of how the House hearings will be conducted; more discussion of how quickly the Senate will get the case; more chatter about whether John Bolton will testify; more verbiage about administration witnesses who are declining to testify; and more accounts of how unhappy many in the government were with the president’s Ukraine “policy.”

What seems new today are the accounts of the circular firing squads that reportedly exist within the president’s orbit as they gear up to battle for his survival.

Bloomberg: Mulvaney versus Cipollone (with the bonus suggestion that Mitch McConnell is unhappy).

New York Times: Trump versus Barr, and Mulvaney versus Barr (although a careful read of this piece suggests a lack of backup for an extreme version of this thesis).

Washington Post: There’s some wacky notion of making Sondland, Giuliani, and Mulvaney the fall guys to protect the president.

Good luck.

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