Biden sees Bloomberg as threat — and boon to Sanders

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden campaign cancels fundraiser with Mueller prosecutor Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here's why The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation MORE’s allies are growing anxious about former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergIt's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Liberals embrace super PACs they once shunned .7 billion expected to be spent in 2020 campaign despite coronavirus: report MORE, believing he will siphon off Biden’s centrist support on Super Tuesday and pave the way for Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGloves come off as Democrats fight for House seat in California Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Unemployment claims now at 41 million with 2.1 million more added to rolls; Topeka mayor says cities don't have enough tests for minorities and homeless communities MORE (I-Vt.) to win the Democratic presidential nomination.

Biden’s allies believe he’s best positioned to go one-on-one with Sanders and that he’ll have earned that right if he posts strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he’s currently battling former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBiden hopes to pick VP by Aug. 1 It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Here's how Biden can win over the minority vote and the Rust Belt MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharPolice killing in Minneapolis puts new scrutiny on Biden pick Cortez Masto says she's not interested in being Biden VP Voting rights, public health officials roll out guidelines to protect voters from COVID-19 MORE (D-Minn.) to be the party’s centrist standard-bearer.

But some in Biden World are growing frustrated that Bloomberg will be waiting for him on the other side.

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Bloomberg is skipping the early-voting states and instead pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into staff and advertisements in the Super Tuesday states that will vote on March 3, when about one-third of all the delegates will be allocated.

Polls show significant overlap between Biden and Bloomberg supporters. Both have deep ties to the Democratic establishment and long-term relationships with the party’s premier donors.

The fear among Biden’s allies is that Bloomberg will divide the centrist vote on March 3 and that Sanders, who has galvanized the left, will benefit from the split field and thunder to the nomination.

“If Bloomberg is serious about beating Trump, I don’t see how pulling votes away from Joe at a critical point and giving the nomination to Bernie will accomplish that,” said Howard Gutman, a Biden supporter and former Obama administration ambassador. “If that happens, Bloomberg will be the American most responsible for reelecting Trump.”

Bloomberg entered the race late last year over fears that Biden wouldn’t be able to go the distance. The former New York City mayor believes that a candidate from the left will have a tougher time defeating Trump in the general election.

Bloomberg ally Steve Rattner explained his thinking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this week, saying that Bloomberg will be there on Super Tuesday to act as a centrist fallback option for Democrats if Sanders continues to gain momentum through the early-voting states.

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Rattner also discounted the complaints from Biden’s supporters.

“Mike Bloomberg is not going to change the fate of Joe Biden. Joe Biden is going to change the fate of Joe Biden,” he said.

“Biden is either going to win in Iowa and New Hampshire ... or he’s not going to do well there, in which case there needs to be a viable centrist alternative in order to stop Bernie Sanders. Over 30 percent of the delegates are going to be selected on Super Tuesday, and if we Democrats don’t have a viable centrist candidate going into that, then the Sanders train could become unstoppable. That’s the theory of the case.”

One Biden ally said they’re fine with Bloomberg’s strategy, believing the former vice president is being underestimated and will emerge a strong favorite for the nomination after the first ballots are cast.

“If Biden takes care of business in the first four [states], Bloomberg can go back to telling people not to drink soda,” the ally aid. “No one is asking him questions yet. He's just running ads, and by Super Tuesday I think there will be a consolidation of Klobuchar and Pete support that overwhelmingly goes to Biden."

“If we just take care of business, who gives a shit about the other team?” the ally said. 

Still, there is alarm among the Democratic establishment at Sanders’s strength and growing debate about how to stop him.

The conundrum mirrors the one faced by the Republicans who wanted to stop Trump from winning in 2016 but could not decide on a candidate or a strategy to blunt his momentum. Trump ended up winning in a runaway.

“Bloomberg might make this go even faster in Bernie’s direction,” said one Democrat who has raised money for Biden. “If he’s spending hundreds of millions of dollars and it’s taking votes away from Joe, there’s no question that helps Bernie. I still think Mike could win some states, but really no one has a clue about whether his strategy can work. It’s never been tried.”

New surveys show Bloomberg is beginning to cut into Biden’s base of support among black voters and older people.

A Morning Consult national survey found Bloomberg at 12 percent support overall. Thirty-four percent of Bloomberg’s supporters listed Biden as their second choice, the most by far.

Bloomberg’s net favorability rating skyrocketed in the poll from a net positive of 5 points to a net positive of 33 points.

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Bloomberg’s net favorability among black voters jumped by 28 points.

A Survey USA poll of California, a key Super Tuesday state where Bloomberg is spending heavily, found him at only 6 percent support overall. But he’s polling at 11 percent among voters aged 50 and above, a key constituent for Biden.

And a Los Angeles Times survey of California that saw Bloomberg jumping from 2 percent to 6 percent found that more than 70 percent of Bloomberg supporters back him because they believe he has the best chance of defeating Trump.

Biden, meanwhile, has made electability one of the core arguments of his campaign.

“There's no question that Bloomberg isn't helping them,” said one major Democratic donor. “For starters, they're out there now saying Biden is not the Democrat who can beat Trump. They're making voters second guess Biden’s only argument: Electability.” 

“But they're also taking the more moderate vote away from Biden,” the donor said. “I think he'd be up by a lot more if Bloomberg wasn't in the race.”

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The donor said that since no one has tried Bloomberg’s strategy of skipping the first four states before, they have no idea what it does to the primary map.

“If Biden doesn't do well in the first couple of states, it'll prove his point, and he'll stick around. He's absolutely going to disrupt the primary season. We just don't know how yet.” 

Not everyone in Bide World is concerned about Bloomberg. Some view his strategy of skipping the first four states as a long-shot gambit that will fizzle out.

“I don't believe you can parachute into Super Tuesday,” a Biden ally said. “Also, if we win big in the early states, Bloomberg is out. The whole argument that Biden is weak goes right out the window.”