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Bloomberg can't win, but he could help reelect Trump

For most Democrats, rightly fixated on beating Donald Trump, Michael BloombergMichael BloombergAs Trump steps back in the spotlight, will Cuomo exit stage left? 'Lucky': How Warren took down Bloomberg Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson vs. Donald Trump: A serious comparison MORE’s campaign for President is about the last thing they need. The bitter irony is that Bloomberg, a mega-billionaire, lifelong Republican, and New York conservative, has no chance of actually winning this year’s populist-leaning Democratic nomination himself. But his candidacy holds a host of dangers for Democrats and could complicate their efforts to defeat Trump.

For one thing, Bloomberg’s campaign risks further dividing Democrats over issues of extreme wealth and economic fairness, emboldening far left candidates like Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate rejects Sanders minimum wage hike Philly city council calls on Biden to 'cancel all student loan debt' in first 100 days Hillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case MORE (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSinema pushes back on criticism of her vote against minimum wage, implying that it's sexist Biden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package Schumer insists Democrats unified after chaotic coronavirus debate MORE (I-Vt.) and their supporters who see Bloomberg as the embodiment of the problem. In fact, Bloomberg’s money-fueled campaign seems to mirror or even legitimize Trump’s political approach of 2016. Of course, Bloomberg’s candidacy could also undermine Joe Biden, the candidate polls have consistently found most likely to beat Donald Trump in the general election.

Perhaps most dangerous, Bloomberg’s massive TV ad buys, with tens of millions already announced, may purchase just enough support in the huge Super Tuesday and other now early mega-primaries to prevent the Democrats from giving any single candidate a majority of delegates. This would increase the already growing chances of a brokered convention in Milwaukee this summer, potentially leaving a weakened, liberal Democratic nominee who lacks the legitimacy of gaining a majority of primary delegates.

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All of this makes a mockery of Bloomberg’s stated intention that he is entering the race to increase the chances of beating Donald Trump. Instead, party leaders like Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaWhy is Joe Biden dodging the public and the press? Here's who Biden is now considering for budget chief Pentagon issues report revealing ex-White House doctor 'belittled' subordinates, violated alcohol policies MORE should indicate to Democratic primary voters that Bloomberg’s erstwhile candidacy is a huge mistake, and Democrats should not support him because of these risks.

Even before Bloomberg threw his shiny silk top hat into the crowded Democratic ring, a series of changes to the Democratic nominating process and campaign practices have increased the chances that no candidate gains a majority of delegates before the convention in July.

California and other major states moved their primaries up to March, so that almost two-thirds of all Democratic delegates will be chosen by March 17. That means that money will play a much larger role in this nomination, and personal campaigning less, as Bloomberg knows, perhaps allowing him to siphon off the 15 percent generally needed in some big states to receive delegates.

Democrats have also prohibited Super Delegates from voting on the first ballot for the nomination — a decision the party arrived at after concerns that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: China implicated in Microsoft breach | White House adds Big Tech critic | QAnon unfazed after false prediction Jill Biden redefines role of first lady QAnon supporters unfazed after another false prediction MORE’s reliance on Super Delegates to gain the 2016 nomination alienated Sanders voters, especially the young.  But the risks of increasing the chances of a far-left candidate winning the nomination, or preventing any candidate from gaining a majority, seem not to have been fully considered.

In addition, no longer can a handful of top Democratic fundraisers dominate the process, throwing support behind a moderate they view as most likely to prevail in a general election.

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Add to this the sheer size of the Democratic field, with at least ten substantial candidates: including Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetSenators introduce bill creating technology partnerships to compete with China Democrats push Biden to include recurring payments in recovery package Democrats: Minimum wage isn't the only issue facing parliamentarian MORE (D. Colo.); former Vice President BidenJoe BidenBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Myanmar military conducts violent night raids Confidence in coronavirus vaccines has grown with majority now saying they want it MORE; Sen. Cory BookerCory Booker'Bloody Sunday' to be commemorated for first time without John Lewis It's in America's best interest to lead global COVID-19 vaccine distribution ABC names new deputy political director, weekend White House correspondent MORE (D-N.J.); Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockOvernight Health Care: CDC calls for schools to reopen with precautions | Cuomo faces rising scrutiny over COVID-19 nursing home deaths | Biden officials move to begin rescinding Medicaid work requirements Montana governor lifts state mask mandate Lobbying world MORE; South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Senate begins marathon vote-a-rama before .9T COVID-19 relief passage The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Virus relief bill headed for weekend vote Biden turns focus to next priority with infrastructure talks MORE; Bloomberg; Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: China implicated in Microsoft breach | White House adds Big Tech critic | QAnon unfazed after false prediction FDA signals plan to address toxic elements in baby food Sen. Tina Smith calls for eliminating filibuster MORE (D-Minn.); former Massachusetts Gov. Deval PatrickDeval PatrickTo unite America, Biden administration must brace for hate Biden faces pressure to take action on racial justice issues Biden selects Susan Rice to lead Domestic Policy Council, McDonough for Veterans Affairs MORE; Sanders and Warren — none with a strong reason to leave the race before Super Tuesday. The ability of any single candidate to gain 50 percent has never been so challenged.

All of these factors increase the chances that no candidate will gain a majority of delegates going into the convention in Milwaukee in July.

As for Bloomberg, outside of buying votes with TV ads, it’s unclear what cohort of democratic primary voters he and his campaign think he can win. None of the major groups — progressives, women, blacks, Hispanics, the young, and working-class voters — seem to have any strong reason to support him. No wonder he is polling in the low single digits. His recent apology over his “stop and frisk” policies while Mayor of New York served simply to remind progressive Democrats that he ran then as a pro-Wall Street right of center, lock-‘em-up law-and-order conservative, not exactly what most Democrats are looking for this year.

Meanwhile, the implications of a brokered Convention are not reassuring to those whose main goal is beating Trump.

In previous eras, when no candidate had a majority, party bosses would choose a nominee who seemed most likely to win in the general election. But such an outcome is unthinkable in today’s Democratic Party obsessed with fairness and meritocracy. Instead, whichever candidate has the most primary-won delegates would be almost guaranteed the nomination, no matter how weakly he or she might run against President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Albany Times Union editorial board calls for Cuomo's resignation Advocates warn restrictive voting bills could end Georgia's record turnout MORE. This may well be ultra-liberal Elizabeth Warren, the major candidate (along with Sanders) perhaps most likely to lose to Trump.

Bloomberg can’t win, but any support he manages to buy could complicate Democratic efforts to beat Trump. Even moderate Democrats should wise up to this danger.

Paul Bledsoe is president of Bledsoe & Associates, a policy and communications consultancy. He is also a lecturer at American University’s Center for Environmental Policy. He served as staff member in the U.S. House, Senate Finance Committee, Interior Department and on President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonIt's time to fix an important religious freedom law Senators introduce bill creating technology partnerships to compete with China Edie Falco to play Hillary Clinton in Clinton impeachment series MORE’s White House Climate Change Task Force.