For most Democrats, rightly fixated on beating Donald Trump, Michael BloombergMichael BloombergDemocrats face bleak outlook in Florida Without drastic changes, Democrats are on track to lose big in 2022 Bidens, former presidents mark 9/11 anniversary 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 Warren11 senators urge House to pass .5T package before infrastructure bill Senate Democrats seeking information from SPACs, questioning 'misaligned incentives' UN secretary-general blasts space tourism MORE (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs Manchin fires warning shot on plan to expand Medicare Democrats steamroll toward showdown on House floor 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.
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 ObamaTop nuclear policy appointee removed from Pentagon post: report Prosecutors face legal challenges over obstruction charge in Capitol riot cases Biden makes early gains eroding Trump's environmental legacy 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 ClintonHeller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 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.
Add to this the sheer size of the Democratic field, with at least ten substantial candidates: including Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetBuild Back Better Act must include funding to restore forests, make communities resilient and create jobs Interior reverses Trump, moves BLM headquarters back to DC Conservation group says it will only endorse Democrats who support .5T spending plan MORE (D. Colo.); former Vice President BidenJoe BidenTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe House passes sweeping defense policy bill MORE; Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Biden employs flurry of meetings to unite warring factions Biden says he will review executive actions after police reform talks fail MORE (D-N.J.); Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve Bullock65 former governors, mayors back bipartisan infrastructure deal Arkansas, New Jersey governors to head National Governors Association Biden 'allies' painting him into a corner MORE; South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegDOJ sues to block JetBlue-American Airlines partnership On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Pelosi plows full speed ahead on jam-packed agenda Blumenthal calls on Buttigieg to investigate American Airlines-JetBlue partnership MORE; Bloomberg; Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Officials want action on cyberattacks Senate panel advances antitrust bill that eyes Google, Facebook This week: Democrats face mounting headaches MORE (D-Minn.); former Massachusetts Gov. Deval PatrickDeval PatrickOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court sides with oil companies in Baltimore case| White House environmental justice advisers express opposition to nuclear, carbon capture projects | Biden administration to develop performance standards for federal buildings Approving Kristen Clarke's nomination should be a no-brainer To unite America, Biden administration must brace for hate 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 TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe 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 ClintonVirginia governor's race enters new phase as early voting begins Business coalition aims to provide jobs to Afghan refugees Biden nominates ex-State Department official as Export-Import Bank leader MORE’s White House Climate Change Task Force.