On the menu today: a deep dive into whether Bernie Sanders or Mike Bloomberg would lose more Democrats to Donald Trump in the general election; the critics of the former New York City mayor on the left and on the right start to see the same traits; and the Democratic National Committee apparently doesn’t want you to watch their debates after tonight.
The Democrats’ Conundrum: Does Bloomberg or Sanders Keep the Party More Unified?
Assume, for a moment, that the Democratic primary comes down to a choice between Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg. (Some might argue that it already has; yesterday the Bloomberg News organization reported an exclusive that the Bloomberg presidential campaign organization believed that the race already came down to Sanders and the Bloomberg presidential candidate. That strikes me as premature, as well as far too many “Bloomberg” monikers in one sentence.)
That said, former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe contends that right now Sanders is on pace to lock up a pledged delegate lead he will not relinquish by Super Tuesday, March 3. The Vermont senator wouldn’t clinch the nomination that day. But he would be so far ahead that he would be virtually guaranteed to go into Milwaukee with an insurmountable lead in delegates. At that point, the party couldn’t afford not to nominate him. He would finish about 20 percentage points ahead of anyone else.
For Democrats, the decision in the coming weeks may come down to a particularly challenging conundrum. If you nominate Sanders, how many anti-Sanders Democrats and independents drift away in the general election? And if you nominate Bloomberg, how many anti-Bloomberg Democrats and independents drift away in the general election?
The Trump campaign and fans of the president shouldn’t fool themselves; the vast majority of people supporting either Sanders or Bloomberg are going to vote for the eventual Democratic nominee. But “vast majority” might mean about 80 to 90 percent, and that might not be enough where it counts when all the votes are tallied on Election Day.
Did Sanders voters cost Hillary Clinton the presidency? Many political scientists have gone through the exit polls and come up with different estimates of just how many Sanders primary voters ended up voting for Trump in the general elections. The low end of estimates is 6 percent, the high end is 12 percent. Political scientist Brian Schaffner put it at 12 percent nationally, and offered a state-level estimate: In Wisconsin, 9 percent of Sanders voters cast ballots for Trump, in Michigan, 8 percent of Sanders voters cast ballots for Trump, and in Pennsylvania, 16 percent of Sanders voters cast ballots for Trump. That comes out to about 51,000 voters in Wisconsin, where Trump’s margin of victory was 22,000. That comes out to about 47,000 voters in Michigan, where Trump’s margin of victory was 10,000. That comes out to about 116,000 voters in Wisconsin, where Trump’s margin of victory was 44,000. Notice that even if you cut the Sanders-to-Trump estimates in half . . . you still end up with a sum larger than the Trump margin.
In other words . . . yeah, Bernie Sanders voters ended up making Donald Trump president in 2016.
The good news for Democrats is that nominating Sanders brings back at least a chunk of those voters. A “socialist grandpa” candidate doesn’t give off a vibe of urban elitist condescension. The bad news for Democrats is that nominating Sanders probably loses a chunk of Hillary Clinton voters.
Down-ticket Democrats aren’t mincing words: Nominating Sanders puts a lot of them in danger of defeat in November.
“They’re terrified,” Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., the first House Democrat to endorse Buttigieg, told ABC News of his colleagues’ response to Sanders’ rise. “Very few people see Bernie as electable.”
“It could be challenging in parts of the country that we have to win in order to win the presidency and win a majority in the Senate,” Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., a centrist who dropped his own White House bid after the New Hampshire primary, said Thursday of a Sanders’ nomination.
Rep. Anthony Brindisi, a New York Democrat fighting for reelection in a district carried by Trump in 2016, wouldn’t commit to supporting Sanders if he becomes the party’s nominee for president.
“He won’t be the party’s nominee,” he said Thursday when repeatedly asked if he’d support Sanders in the general election. “I’ve made it clear that I think we should nominate a more moderate candidate who has the ability to reach across the aisle and get things done.”
A House Democrat in a swing district who did not want to be identified told the New York Times that if the Democrats nominated Sanders, “there is a growing concern among especially those of us on the front lines that we will not only lose the White House but the House of Representatives.” Texas Democrats believe Sanders would torpedo their hopes of big gains in the state legislature.
Socialism — explicit socialism, wearing the label proudly — has only niche appeal in this country. The Democratic Socialists of America endorsed 42 candidates in 20 states in 2018. None of their senatorial candidates won, neither of their gubernatorial candidates won, and three of their twelve House candidates won: incumbent Danny Davis in Illinois, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib. As you may have noticed, those are heavily Democratic districts.
Wait, there’s one other wrinkle, and I’m not making an age joke. Sanders said yesterday he had changed his mind and will not release any more of his medical records. This is a 78-year-old man who had a heart attack in October. At the time, the senator’s campaign said he had been hospitalized with “chest pains,” and three days later announced he had a heart attack and that doctors had inserted two stents.
At this point, many Democrats might be thinking: “To heck with all that, let’s nominate Bloomberg.” But he comes with his own risks. Do you think the Trump campaign can gain some traction on Bloomberg defending bonuses to executives at companies bailed out by the taxpayers?
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said financial industry employees and Wall Street workers should still get year-end bonuses even as their companies receive federal aid.
The U.S. Treasury is providing assistance to a range of firms as part of the federal $700 billion rescue program.
“It’s a populist thing to say I don’t want to give any bonuses,” Bloomberg today during his weekly appearance on WOR radio. “It’s just unrealistic to say that the employees for these companies, who work hard, shouldn’t get compensated at the rate in that industry.”
The companies receiving federal assistance will have trouble getting back on their feet if they can’t retain employees, Bloomberg said.
Mike Bloomberg, the “bonuses for bailed-out bankers” candidate. If you thought a lot of Sanders voters flipped to Trump or voted third party in 2020, just wait until Democrats ask them to vote for the brusque and charmless Wall Street billionaire. The Trump campaign will make sure suburban moms know about the claims of Bloomberg’s sexist, profane, and obnoxious comments to female employees, that African Americans know about “throw them up against the wall and frisk them,” and that everyone knows about the time Bloomberg’s lawyers threatened a woman whose husband wrote too critically about China. When Nina Turner, a national campaign co-chair for Senator Bernie Sanders, called Bloomberg an “oligarch” and when Sanders’s national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray called Bloomberg a “racist authoritarian,” I don’t think they’re doing it just for show or in the heat of the moment. I think they genuinely believe it. Mike Bloomberg represents everything these folks got into politics to fight against and summoning the will to vote for the “lesser evil” racist authoritarian will not come easily.
Whether Bloomberg or Sanders is the nominee, leading Democrats will insist, “but Trump is worse!” And many Democrats, and Democratic-leaning independents, will agree.
Does Michael Bloomberg See You As a Human Being?
Another cautionary note about Bloomberg that is emerging: His critics on the right and on the left see the same traits that trouble them.
Zaid Jilani: “It’s hardly a surprise that Bloomberg is on record defending the Chinese system of government, insisting that Xi Jinping is “not a dictator”. Bloomberg sees himself as an enlightened autocrat, who uses his money to get around inefficient democratic processes.”
Tim Carney: “In Bloomberg’s eyes, any talk of the dignity of the human person is mawkish sentimentality. Mike Bloomberg doesn’t see people as ends in themselves, but instead as means to ends . . . Human beings, to Bloomberg, are not unique creatures, all deserving freedom, respect, and dignity. They are not ends in themselves, in Bloomberg’s eyes. People are either inconveniences to be ignored or terminated (babies), threats to be neutralized and intimidated (minority males), corporate machine parts to be exploited for profit (employees), or tools for sexual gratification (women).”
We probably all know someone in life who is a genius or indisputable runaway success in one area — making money, working out computer problems, cooking, understanding the tax code, being a coach, sorting out engineering problems — but who is not nearly as wise and astute in other areas of life. His relationships are a mess, he freezes up when speaking in public, he’s socially awkward, he micromanages others. Human beings are rarely good at all tasks.
Mike Bloomberg is that kind of personality who believes that because his judgment was proven correct in one area — building a fortune — that his judgment must be inerrant in just about all areas. (You no doubt have noticed that the current president is not exactly a bubbling fountain of humility, modesty, and self-effacement, either.) Colorado Springs and Pueblo are “a part of Colorado where I don’t think there’s roads.” Bloomberg is unconvinced God exists, but believes that if He does, “when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.” He declared, “if you want to have a gun in your house, I think you’re pretty stupid.”
If you disagree, hey, he’s the eighth-richest man in America, and you’re not. What could you possibly know that he doesn’t?
The DNC Apparently Hates Big Debate Audiences
Tonight is debate night. Enjoy it, because the next two debates are on Saturday nights. Apparently, the Democratic National Committee doesn’t want people to watch.
ADDENDUM: Under Nate Silver’s projection of the delegates, the three top finishers are straight white males over seventy, and the top four are white males. The top female finisher would be Warren with 8 percent. The Democrats probably couldn’t have ended up with a less diverse top tier if they tried.