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New Hampshire could be a big win for Bloomberg

Who is the likely winner of today’s New Hampshire primary? Mike Bloomberg, even though he in not competing in the Granite State. Here’s why:

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenLawmakers, activists remember civil rights icons to mark 'Bloody Sunday' Fauci predicts high schoolers will receive coronavirus vaccinations this fall Biden nominates female generals whose promotions were reportedly delayed under Trump MORE is going to place fourth or fifth, continuing his dismal results from Iowa and raising new concerns about his electability. Heading into South Carolina, where he has been the dominant front-runner, his campaign is wilting, even as Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersLawmakers, activists remember civil rights icons to mark 'Bloody Sunday' Progressives' majority delusions politically costly Sinema pushes back on criticism of her vote against minimum wage MORE (I-Vt.) and former-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 surge. If Biden was the most popular center-left candidate, the one most appealing to Wall Street and establishment Democrats – and thus the biggest challenge to Bloomberg – his downward slide is good news for the former New York City mayor.

That leaves Buttigieg trying to bust through the moderate lane. He has been rising fast in New Hampshire, and he will come in a close second to front-runner Bernie Sanders. Once he hits South Carolina, though, that momentum will stall. He is now running fifth in the Palmetto State, at under 6 percent of the vote. Some say that conservative black voters will not rally round a gay candidate; that may not be true, but it is evident that black voters have not yet climbed aboard the Pete bandwagon. South Bend’s record on race when he was its mayor is fodder for his opponents.

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Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharDemocrats near pressure point on nixing filibuster  Hillicon 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 MORE (D-Minn.) is also a contender for that center-left lane, and has seemingly taken a little of the steam out of Buttigieg’s ascent since her strong performance in the debate on February 7. She could surprise by coming in third in New Hampshire. But she, like Buttigieg, is not well positioned in South Carolina.

Sanders is a shoe-in to win New Hampshire; he is currently ahead 5 to 10 points in all the major polling, according to RealClearPolitics. He will come out of New Hampshire guns a-blazing, arguing that he won both in Iowa (or at least the popular vote) and also his neighboring state. He can also point to a new Quinnipiac poll that shows him leading nationally for the first time – ahead of Biden – as evidence that he is the favorite and can beat Donald Trump.

He can’t and he won’t because in coming weeks Democrats will make sure that Socialist Bernie does not get the nomination. More will realize that he will lead the party to a calamitous loss, and they will look for an alternative. Overwhelmed by ads, underwhelmed by others in the race, they will come to realize that Mike Bloomberg is the best they’ve got.

At that point, it’s all about the math.

Forget the early states. For all the breathless coverage, the New Hampshire Democratic primary is truly dinky — awarding only 24 pledged delegates, one percent of the 1,990 needed to win. That is even fewer than Iowa. It’s barely worth fighting for, except that, especially in the wake of the Iowa fiasco, New Hampshire will punch above its weight. 

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The first four contests, including Nevada, will award a total of 155 pledged delegates. If the candidates perform as predicted by today’s polls, Sanders will lead on the cusp of Super Tuesday with 34 delegates, followed by Biden (33), Buttigieg (25) and 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.) (20). Activist Tom SteyerTom SteyerGOP targets ballot initiatives after progressive wins On The Trail: The political losers of 2020 Biden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far MORE could pick up 10 delegates in South Carolina, where he has talked up policies like reparations that are particularly popular with black voters. Klobuchar could nab a few along the way.

Sanders, Buttigieg and Klobuchar will probably do better than that, and Biden and Warren will do worse. The important takeaway, though, is that no one candidate looks set to run away with the race. That’s good news for Mike Bloomberg.

It is important to remember that the March 3 contests dwarf the haul from the four early states. On Super Tuesday Democratic candidates, including, for the first time, Mike Bloomberg, will compete for 1,345 pledged delegates. The biggest states up for grabs are California, with 416 delegates, Texas, with 228, and North Carolina, with 110. 

In California today, Sanders and Biden both have over 20 percent of the vote, with Bloomberg far behind at only 4 percent. But, with 800 staffers in the state, his huge ad spend, and his growing list of endorsements from more than 50 party officials in the state, Bloomberg is gaining ground fast. In Texas, he is only at 7 percent, but is quickly opening a slew of offices and, as in California, racking up endorsements. Biden and Sanders lead in North Carolina, where Bloomberg is beginning to run ads; one recent poll gave him 14 percent of the vote.

Don’t underestimate the power of limitless money.

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In all those states, Mayor Pete is running in single digits. His strong showing in Iowa and likely second-place finish in New Hampshire will boost his prospects (and fundraising) across the board, so he will remain a contender.

These contests are fluid, and will change according to what happens in New Hampshire and other upcoming contests. But it is safe to say that, as things stand today, no one candidate looks primed to sweep the field. Hence, speculation about a brokered convention in Milwaukee.  

Bloomberg could win a contested convention, since he has already secured the support of many so-called “automatic” delegates, who would vote in the second round, if no one candidate gets a majority in the first balloting. He has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on local races across the country, storing up chits from party officials and candidates, who will show up in Milwaukee as superdelegates.

Bloomberg has a path to the nomination, but it is one that will infuriate Bernie’s Army, who are still seething that the Democratic National Committee appeared to undermine their man in 2016. As in that year, many progressives may revolt against the party’s choice by staying home or even voting for President TrumpDonald TrumpUS, South Korea reach agreement on cost-sharing for troops Graham: Trump can make GOP bigger, stronger, or he 'could destroy it' Biden nominates female generals whose promotions were reportedly delayed under Trump MORE. It is hard to imagine 2020 Democrats rallying behind a white billionaire with a complicated history on race.

Money may buy the nomination for Bloomberg, but beating Trump in November will be the bigger challenge.

Liz Peek is a former partner of major bracket Wall Street firm Wertheim & Company. Follow her on Twitter @lizpeek.