Judd Gregg: Bloomberg rising

New Hampshire has voted — and the winner is Michael BloombergMichael BloombergFormer Bloomberg staffer seeks class-action lawsuit over layoffs Bloomberg spent over 0M on presidential campaign The Hill's Campaign Report: Officials in spotlight over coronavirus response MORE.

Although Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal Oil giants meet at White House amid talk of buying strategic reserves The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden struggles to stay in the spotlight MORE (I-Vt.) actually won the vote, his victory is a propellant for the former New York City mayor’s campaign.

Sanders and his team like to talk about the “movement” that backs his call to arms for the democratic left.

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It is a movement populated largely by young people. It also incorporates the permanently-disgruntled leftists who are mostly holdovers from the radical cliques of the 1960s and 1970s.

Bernie’s appeal is populism in the extreme.

It is the promise of giving a better life to the many at the expense of the few, through massive redistribution and massive government expansion.

It is an old socialist message.

It has been tried before, of course. It has brought disastrous results for the people and places that have opted into it.

In some instances, such as the Soviet Union and Maoist China, millions of people lost their lives while national leaders claimed they were building a better life for their people.

In other countries, like Cuba and Venezuela, socialism morphed into totalitarian dictatorships that have benefitted the elite while destroying the livelihood of the many and curtailing the liberties of most.

In yet other cases, like Greece, Portugal and France, socialist democratic governments have simply undermined the general standard of living of the entire society in the name of building a fairer society.

As former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher so aptly pointed out, “Socialist governments always run out of other people’s money.”

Interestingly, even though Sanders won New Hampshire and effectively tied for victory in Iowa, his wins are having the opposite effect to what might be expected.

Instead of further igniting his campaign, these results — especially in New Hampshire, which was an actual election — have caused a giant caution sign to start flashing for Democrats wary of socialism. This is the great majority of mainstream Democrats.

Socialism is not the cause du jour for everyday folks who work, have small businesses to run and families to raise. These people may be Democrats, but they are not part of the Hollywood or New York Times elitist cadres.

These Americans — the backbone of the Democratic Party — simply seek a better lifestyle, in line with the historic American experience.

They do not see socialism as a viable option because they are filled with common sense.

They do not identify with Sanders’s philosophy, which holds that problems can be solved by getting a free pass on personal responsibility and beggaring your successful neighbor.

What these Democrats want is a return to a rational, thoughtful and purposeful liberal government and presidency.

The first step is defeating President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump fires intelligence community inspector general who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint Trump organization has laid off over 1000 employees due to pandemic: report Trump invokes Defense Production Act to prevent export of surgical masks, gloves MORE. He has come to epitomize, for them, polarization, failure and the degradation of the office of the presidency.

These Democrats understand, almost intuitively, that nominating a socialist to battle Trump in November’s election would be an act of self-immolation.

Thus the majority of the Democratic Party is growing very restive as Sanders advances.

Democrats are looking for an alternative.

The fact that Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharDemocrats fear coronavirus impact on November turnout Hillicon Valley: Zoom draws new scrutiny amid virus fallout | Dems step up push for mail-in voting | Google to lift ban on political ads referencing coronavirus Democrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots MORE (D-Minn.) and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg launches new PAC to aid down-ballot candidates HuffPost political reporter on why Bernie fell way behind Biden Economists fear slow pace of testing will prolong recession MORE (D) ran so well in New Hampshire reflects this concern. There is a real desire among mainstream Democrats to find a viable alternative to the Sanders “movement.”

But who is the person to provides that alternative?

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden struggles to stay in the spotlight Is Texas learning to love ObamaCare? Romney warns Trump: Don't interfere with coronavirus relief oversight MORE has apparently missed the train as it pulled out of the nominating station. As rational and thoughtful as Klobuchar and Buttigieg may be, they do not appear to meet the test of taking on and defeating Trump.

The answer has always been obvious. It is becoming more so. It is Bloomberg.

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Maybe Bloomberg anticipated that the early efforts in the nominating process would lead to this point.

If he did, he is even smarter than those around him claim.

In any event, he may soon be seen as the potential savior of the Democratic Party. He may be the antidote to Trump.

Sanders claims — and will continue to do so — that Bloomberg is just another evil billionaire and is trying to buy the election.

There is a great deal of irony and misdirection in this allegation by the Sanders team.

Bloomberg is using his own money to influence people to vote for him.

Bernie, on the other hand, is using everyone else’s money.

He puts forward an endless stream of new programs all aimed at benefitting targeted constituencies whose votes he wants. The cost to the American taxpayer of the programs Sanders has proposed so far comes in at around $100 trillion.

This is serious vote-buying.

Another irony of the rise of Bloomberg is that on many issues, Trump will actually be running to the left of Mayor Mike.

On the deficit and national debt, Trump is way to the left of almost everyone — especially Bloomberg, who has a history of managing fiscal policy soundly in New York.

On industrial policy, the Trump administration takes a back seat to no liberal in its willingness to use the government to intercede in the market. 

The president and his people revel in picking winners and penalizing others in the private sector. This has become such a pervasive policy that Trump’s attorney general has proposed having the federal government buy private companies in the telecom industry.

It is safe to postulate that Bloomberg will not suggest this type of government dominance of the free market.

On the issue of working with our natural and historic allies in Europe and to a lesser extent in Asia, it is difficult to imagine that Bloomberg will be adopting the “America First, America Only” policy that has deep historical roots in the populism of the left and has been totally embraced by Trump.

Bloomberg has not yet been tested on the national stage.

He has so far hidden behind his massive media team.

At some point, if he wishes to expand his appeal, he will have to come out from behind the curtain and actually meet Americans.

He will, to use a modish term, have to be “humanized.”

He will need to show he is someone who actually, on a personal level and in an authentic manner, understands the concerns of Main Street.

This may be a challenge. We will soon find out.

For now, however, the New Hampshire outcome is clear.

Bernie won the vote but Bloomberg won the day.

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.